Alexandra Furtado wins Jim Cresson Memorial Scholarship Award

July 28, 2014

Alexandra (Shandra) Furtado, a recent graduate of Sussex Technical High School, is the 2014 recipient of the Jim Cresson Scholarship, named for the late Cape Gazette reporter.

Shandra has been a member of the National Honors Society and her technical area is digital publishing and print technologies. She played lacrosse and enjoys painting, drawing, writing, photography, hiking and travel. She will be attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in the fall and plans to major in marine biology, environmental sciences, and international affairs with a focus on ocean and marine conservation issues.

Jim Cresson, a Sussex County native, was a journalist and photographer in Delaware. A Vietnam veteran, outdoorsman, artist, and musician, Jim had a great love for his country and nature, and a particular fondness for Native American history and culture. He spent the final years of his journalism career writing and taking photographs for the Cape Gazette before dying in an automobile accident in 2005.

The Jim Cresson Memorial Fund Scholarship recognizes a Sussex County senior who, through an essay contest focusing on interests that Jim Cresson shared, demonstrates the character of Jim Cresson. Each year, Sussex County seniors are invited to apply for the scholarship in the second semester of their senior year.

Administered by the Greater Lewes Foundation, the Jim Cresson Memorial Fund was established by friends of Cresson to perpetuate his memory. The following is Shandra’s winning entry.

The Blind Dog Sees All

Oscar is a grump. His name and an extra twenty pounds of lard on his belly set him up for failure. Cleo is a spaz. Even as the runt of the litter she still has enough energy in her purr to create chaos. And Max is a coward, squealing at the approach of the vacuum monster.

Oscar and his fluffy fiery orange fur are hard to miss. He can always be found sulking in the corner. When approached, he flips his fat belly up towards the ceiling, a sure sign of defeat. What the eye seems to interpret however is not always true, as Oscar lays there in laziness he is asking, actually demanding, to be pet. He’s shaped like any normal cat, but carved out of butter. Any disruption to his delicate state of being angers him intensely, but if you push his blubbery buttons right his eyes light up with love.

When the rumbling crackle begins there’s no telling when it will stop. He starts to lick my fingers like they too are made of butter. His head moves to where my hand went if I pick it up, and sometimes he even relocates himself to my lap. This grump is twenty pounds of pure love.

Cleopatra likes to climb things a million times her size. I hear the pitter patter of her little feet all throughout the night, jumping off furniture, knocking things over, annoying the other animals. Once, I watched in disbelief as she sat contently on the top of my roof. Her puny little kitten figure can fit entirely in my palm, yet somehow she managed to scale the side of a two story house. She jumped gracefully from the roof to the top of the dogwood tree, sending a giant ripple throughout the branches. They say curiosity killed the cat, but this cat surely has nine lives. From the top of the tree she let out a roar of a thousand decibels, shaking the birds from the surrounding trees. Size is not an issue for her, she rules her kingdom regardless.

Max’s diabetes left him with severe cataracts. I watch him roam the house, bumping into furniture and whatever cat is standing in the way. He is afraid of new smells, sharp sounds, or even hands that approach too closely. He follows what he knows, and retracts from anything suspicious.

They all wander outside, Oscar’s tail stout and upright with confidence, always staying a few inches away from Max’s nose. They stroll around together, Oscar leading Max away from obstacles and Max keeping a lonely Oscar company. He trusts Oscar completely; they sit together as Max chews his bone, and while Oscar watches Cleo run around in circles. I like to believe Oscar describes Cleo’s strange mannerisms to Max while they bathe in the sun, and Max laughs as if he can see it all too. Sometimes I watch Cleo play with Max, sneaking up on him, just to run away with another burst of energy. I can tell this makes him happy, I can see it in his out of breath, drooling smile, the same one he gets when I scratch his belly. Max sees more than most, what he cannot make out in solid figures he interprets by understanding and faith.

Sometimes I wonder how humans, who seem to know it all, can’t seem to enjoy the simple pleasures that life gives us, despite our hardships or defects. Or how quick we are to judge, when we see a spaz, or a grump, or someone who is disabled. We look over what we have and only focus on what we do not have or what challenges our achievements.

If Oscar can be such a lovable grump, I know that I can be understanding and patient even on my worst days. If Cleo’s little claws can bring her to the top of that 20-foot tree, I know my voice can climb to reach even the most distant cause. And if Max can be trusting of two little balls of fur he cannot even see, then I know I can be trusting of whatever my future holds.

Led by Max’s examples of trust, Cleo’s confidence, and Oscar’s love, I now understand what it means to be a member of a community. Seeing them work together so flawlessly gives me hope for what I will be able to accomplish in today’s society, despite a variety of obstacles I may encounter. Their genuine friendship and caring for one another shows that diversity in relationships is truly beneficial; it brings new learning experiences and opportunities for trust.

If there is a household where cats and dogs can get along flawlessly, then there must be a possibility of a world where people can do the same.