As senior years of high school go, Cassandra Roznowski has been through a tough one.
Her father died in October.
Her younger sister currently is in a hospital undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
And, recently she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Those challenges didn’t stop her from reaching graduation at North Hardin High School this year, using life’s hurdles as motivation to move forward.
“It’s all an experience to grow upon,” she said. “Everything has been very eye-opening and I do feel like I genuinely learned more in this past year than I ever have before.”
Roznowski, who graduates today, described her father, Philip Jon “Phil” Roznowski, as her No. 1 fan. She recalled a memory, shortly before his death, where he was upset that Cassandra did not get the part of Fiona in a choir production of “Shrek The Musical.” He died days before the performance opened.
“It was very difficult to put all the pain aside and still do my best,” she said. “Despite his absence, I still felt him in the front row and I want to live my life in a way that not only makes him proud, but that I’m able to give people the same feeling that he gave to me in the sense of ‘I’m important. I matter. I’m capable.’”
Shortly after her father’s death, Roznowski’s sister was diagnosed with leukemia.
“Right after the trip to the emergency room, my mom immediately left with her when they airlifted her to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville,” she said.
‘OUT OF MY SHELL.’ Throughout her high school career, Roznowski has been involved in drama club, choir, marching band and more.
“Marching band is where the performer in me kind of bloomed,” she said. “It was really, really great to get out there and experience those things and kind of get over myself a little bit and break out of my shell.”
Roznowski, who attended James T. Alton Middle School in Vine Grove, said she struggled to initially transition as a freshman at North Hardin High School.
“I do have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed recently this past year. So, I was kind of trying to find myself,” she said. “It was just a bit of roller coaster.”
Roznowski said she found it easier to assimilate in North Hardin High School once she bought into the school’s culture.
“After I learned to fully commit, I really did reap the benefits of all those activities and even just my regular classes because they offered me prompts and assignments and things that I could wholeheartedly focus my time and effort into,” she said. “I’m so proud of the work that I have done in those classes.”
In coping with her bipolar disorder, Roznowski said she took an introspective look and became more self-aware, especially on how she treated others and how others may have perceived her actions.
“I just got very in tune with my true self versus what the chemical imbalance in my brain tries to facade my view of what the moment (is),” she said. “It was difficult. It still is, but I’m constantly working towards bettering myself.”
PAST AND FUTURE. Following high school, Roznowski plans to volunteer at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where her sister currently is staying for treatment for cancer.
Afterward, she plans to move to Los Angeles to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where she will study acting.
Roznowski cited Beth Root, choir director at the school, as being a “rock” support for her, especially during her senior year.
“She is such a beautiful soul,” Roznowski said. “She is a mother to everyone in her classes and she really is someone that anyone can open up to and talk to because she genuinely does care.”
Roznowski said the aspect she will miss most about the high school is its unity.
“Even kids who have no clue who someone is, if they see them struggle ... or having a hard time, they reach out,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot of negativity here.”
Overall, Roznowski said she is delighted to graduate from North Hardin.
“I know I’m not the fastest rabbit in the race, but I made it,” she said.
• A story on an Elizabethtown High School graduating senior will be published in Sunday’s edition of The News-Enterprise.