HITCHCOCK — Hanna Bear hoped she’d walk away from the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo with a $500 scholarship. Instead, the 17-year-old Santa Fe High School senior left with $12,500 to put toward college.
Shy at first, Bear, with her curled blonde hair and big smile, loosened up as she explained some of the hardships with which she and her family have had to deal.
In the past two years, Bear’s sister, Serena, 15, and father, Jimmy, 44, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and her father was also diagnosed with melanoma.
“They’re both doing good now, but it was tough,” Bear said. “I thought I was going to have to get rid of my cow.”
Her father was unemployed for a while, and money was tight. Bear said she didn’t know if she could afford to raise animals like she has every year since third grade without his help.
“The fair is our bonding thing,” she said. “He wasn’t working and was sick all the time.”
Bear didn’t have to get rid of her steer, though, and friends and family hosted a benefit to help with expenses.
The scholarships she won will help pay for college. Bear plans to attend Alvin Community College in the fall and wants to work in cardiac sonography, a technology that uses ultrasound to examine the heart.
A career in medicine is an obvious choice for Bear, who not only likes to help people but was also born with congenital heart disease.
She went through her first open-heart surgery at only a few days old and her second when she was 4.
This summer, the teen will undergo an angiogram, a procedure doctors use to take pictures of blood flow in the heart.
Her experiences will allow her to help children face the same problems.
“If I’m giving a kid an echocardiogram one day, if they’re scared I can be like ‘I went through this too, it’s no big deal. I’m just taking pictures of your heart,’” Bear said.
Her boyfriend, 18-year-old Zachary Little, attended the scholarship event Wednesday night to support Bear and wasn’t as surprised as she was.
“She puts in work, tries real hard and doesn’t brag about it,” he said.
When she’s not in school or doing homework, Little said Bear is always taking care of her animals.
When asked if she gives 100 percent to everything she does, he said, “I’d say like 120 percent. That’s more accurate.”