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Kristina Croucher's eyes light up when she talks about getting to dissect a human cadaver for the first time this summer at Anatomy Academy. Croucher is able to join the Academy's inaugural class in July because she earned a full-tuition scholarship to the program at the Northeastern Ohio Medical University in Rootstown.
"I'm a single mom," said her mother, Marilyn Ferency. "I couldn't pay $2,500 for two weeks," but a scholarship was available for a deserving student.
"I decided, what can I lose if apply for the scholarship," said the 18-year-old Kenston High School grad. "I either get it or I don't."
Croucher loves science. She took biology her sophomore year and then advanced biology and AP biology. While her peers were glued to their phones posting on social media, she focused on academics. She went to high school five days a week, took College Credit Plus courses at night and worked part-time.
Croucher's father died when she was 12 and her mother is on disability, so she works at Drug Mart to help provide for her family, including her younger brother.
"Its been hard," she said. "I never wanted to do any sports when I was growing up because volleyball you have to pay for all the knee pads. It was always really difficult, but we got through it. I chose working over internships. Growing up it was just my mom, me and my little brother. I had to help take care of my little brother."
Croucher never had an older sibling to look up to, so she makes it a point to to take her 13-year-old brother, Justin, to the movies, to get haircuts and to football practice.
She's a big help, her mom said.
"I always want him to come along and try to have fun and let him be a kid," Croucher said. "I'm glad Justin is doing football this year because I was never able to do that. We were always so tight on income."
Losing her father at a young age motivated Croucher to earn good grades in school.
"His death really affected me and I still miss him a lot today," Croucher said. "I had to take it upon myself to make something of an image for my mom and brother to look up to and be a role model in my family. I wanted to be that person if anyone needed help in my family, they could come to me for it."
Croucher earned two college scholarships from radio personality Jimmy Malone and a presidential scholarship, which will cover nearly half the cost of college tuition next year. She will attend Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa. and double major in pre-med biology and forensic anthropology with hopes of becoming a medical examiner or a doctor.
Croucher said being able to participate in the Anatomy Academy will allow her to experience a lot of things for the first time. The Academy is a two-week institute with morning anatomy lectures, clinical sessions and afternoon dissections of human cadavers, brains and spinal cords taught by award-winning anatomy professor Dana Peterson at Neomed.
"I've never done anything like this before," Croucher said. "I never been able to come close to a cadaver or brains. It's so interesting."
"This will be a good program to see whether she really wants to go that route," her mom added. "It's so exciting."