Step Up for Scholars 2022: Fiona Balsa

Blog, Step Up for Scholars | 08/03/2022

Welcome to Step Up for Scholars, the second event in the 2022 Pat’s Run Challenge Series! We’re celebrating all 14 classes of Tillman Scholars over the next 14 days. Each day, we’ll share a story from one of our scholars to inspire you to push a little harder tomorrow in your step challenge. Today, we bring you Fiona Balsa, a 2021 Tillman Scholar on how she tries to make ever day matter by bringing joy to herself and those around her. Here’s Fiona:

Hi everyone I’m 2021 Tillman Scholar Fiona Balsa, thank you for participating in this Step Up for Scholars challenge. I want to share with you a story that has helped me throughout my journey and my hope is that it will in one way or another help you too.

As Tillman Scholars, we all have big dreams and big things on the horizon that we set our eyes on. It is a part of who we are and also one of the main reasons why we were selected, because people believe in us in our dream and our potential in creating change and making significant impacts in our society and the world we live in. That’s all very exciting; however, nobody really spends that much time thinking.

about the sausage making. The day-to-day mundane things that we have to go through to achieve these goals, classes you have to take, deadlines you have to meet, late night studying, dissertation, your long commute your struggling juggling between family and school work and those annoying people you have to work with,  etc etc.

It’s very easy to fall into this burnout stage during our journey at some point without even realizing it. You switch from being excited to an autopilot mode where you just go through the motions day by day; today looks just like yesterday and probably tomorrow. That was me many years ago, and then one day I was walking past this cheesy poster on the wall in big bold colorful colorful letters, it was impossible to miss. It said “make today matter.” As I was walking away, I started thinking to myself to make today matter, what does that mean? How do I make my day matter? That question has changed the way I go about my day ever since. Now I never let a day go by without doing two things: first, I do one thing big or small that I think may put a smile on someone’s face; and second I do one other thing that makes my heart smile.

Making a day matter could look different for everyone. To some, it could be doing one thing that takes courage, something you normally would say no to like getting up on the stage and make a fool out of yourself. To others, perhaps making a decision to let go of one thing that has been weighing on your mind and not let it ruin your day. Say to that negative thinking “not today.” For me it’s doing something that makes my heart and others smile. My question for you is how do you make your today better?

Want to join the challenge? It’s not too late! Register by Aug. 14 at and you’ll get a commemorative t-shirt and hat.