Saundra Weigel

Try and imagine how many people you walk by everyday and how many of those people you know the name of.

Now think of how many deaths you hear of on the news whether it be a school shooting, car accident or natural disaster.

Think of how many people you have gossiped about with your friends and yet have never met.

There are a little over 6,500 students attending Northwest, according to the Northwest Facts website. Among these people, we each could name around 50 of them, closer to 100 for someone involved in Greek Life. But everyone else we pass along the sidewalks, see on the news or gossip about is not real to us. They do not have any depth.

Brandon Stanton began the project “Humans of New York” to create a photographic representation of the city to show next to the interviews he performed with everyday people.

With this blog, Stanton is able to give people who might normally be lost in a large city like New York a name, face and personality.

Instead of walking past people on the streets and barely acknowledging their existence, this new biweekly article, “Humans of Northwest,” hopes to give each person depth.

Senior Saundra Weigel is a Human Services major from Blue Springs. She moved there when she was nine years old with her mother and older brother and sister.

Her family is really important to her.

“My sister has six kids and they are the lights of my life,” Weigel said.

Because her father passed away when she was only five years old, Weigel’s mother was a single mom who worked three jobs to support her family.

“(My father) fought in the Vietnam war. When he came back, he suffered from PTSD and to cope with that he started drinking and developed alcoholism. Eventually, his pancreas ruptured and that is what he passed away from,” Weigel said.

For Weigel’s fifth birthday, Nov. 24, her father promised her he would stop drinking. Dec. 23, Weigel discovered her father drinking again and he passed away the following day.

“I didn’t really understand what was going on… I remember when he was in the hospital, before my mom took him off life support, telling him I loved him and goodbye. Then I kissed him on the forehead,” Weigel said.

She recently got in contact with her oldest brother who was adopted out of her family when he was just two hours old.

“My oldest brother’s dad was black and my grandmother was really racist. She told my mom she could keep my older sister who was three years old at the time (and full white) or she could give up her son. So, she gave up the child she didn’t know yet,” Weigel said.

By the time her other brother was born, her grandmother had developed Alzheimer's and no longer recognized the racism inside herself.

“One of my close friends had searched for her biological mom on Facebook and found her. So I decided to search for my brother,” Weigel said. “I found him within five seconds when my mom and sister had been searching for years.”

Weigel immediately began messaging her brother, but she was not the only one who had tried to claim relations to him. Her brother had been adopted into a wealthy home where he had a trust fund. Therefore, many people had been telling him they were his biological family.

After Weigel proved through documentation she was his biological sister, her brother was able to get into contact with their mother.

He then brought his fiance and visited Weigel’s family for Christmas. Now, her two older brothers are best friends. Weigel said they could almost be twins.

Weigel did not grow up in a Christian home, but she got connected with campus ministries when she arrived to Northwest. Her happiest memory is the day her best friend, former Bearcat Kaitlyn Irwin, baptized her.

“I remember coming out of the water,” Weigel said. “That was amazing. I just felt so cleansed, so new, so different.”

Weigel is now a part of the Christian sorority on campus, Gamma Alpha Lambda.

Coming to Northwest allowed Weigel to connect with individuals who were ultimately going to help her grow as a person.

Senior Lyndsey Garrison is currently Weigel’s roommate.

“The love that Saundra shows is so unique,” Garrison said. “She takes the unconditional love that God gives us and pours it into her friendships showing others they are valued. She reminds others even when life is interrupted by grief, there is a reason to say ‘I choose joy today’ everyday.”

It was through the connection she made on campus that Weigel was able to finally grieve and work through her father’s death and the number of trials she has faced in the process of becoming an adult.

Weigel is proud to be a Bearcat.

Junior Hunter Davis has been a friend of Weigel’s for years and can attest to her character.

“Saundra has an insane passion for people. She will go out of her way to help a friend or to make someone's day better,” Davis said.

Any number of us could have passed by Weigel on the sidewalks countless times. But no one would ever look at her and understand her story and who she is as a person.

The goal of this piece and the future pieces like it is to begin to imagine our surroundings complexly, to remember each person has a story and a goal and to recognize we are not so different after all.

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