Caitlyn Pasbrig and Bailey Sandahl have been the best of friends since 6
grade and, like most best friends, they’ve got a lot in common. Schoolmates throughout elementary and middle school, the two of them have always strived to do well academically, an ambitiousness they encourage in each other.
“We push each other to do our best,” Caitlyn says.
And Caitlyn notes that, while neither of them cares much for airplanes, they love to camp together every summer at
the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In in Oshkosh. “It’s just a blast.”
In their junior year of high school, the friends discovered something else in common: Both of their mothers had cancer.
When Bailey’s mother was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer, Caitlyn says, “though Bailey and I were super close, my reaction seemed over the top. I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s a really weird concept, but basically I knew my mom was sick when Bailey found out her mom was sick. It was just a gut feeling.”
Caitlyn’s mom was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer later that month.
Both girls planned to attend college but Caitlyn found it hard to move forward after her mother’s diagnosis.
“We found out about her cancer right as the college decision process was beginning,” she says. “All my friends were touring and applying to colleges and that was just simply not on my radar at the time. Once she was out of treatments, I had to work the process backwards. I started with the applications and from there decided which colleges to tour.”
Caitlyn chose UW-Whitewater, in part to remain near her mom.
“I know she would hate to hear it, but I did make my final decision based off only a few things. One of the biggest is the fact that UW-Whitewater is close to home.”
While her mom’s illness made the transition to college more challenging, a generous scholarship made it easier.
The Glenn R. Davis Charitable Foundation, based at the Waukesha County Community Foundation, offered Caitlyn $2,000 for college. Named in honor of late U.S. Congressman Glenn Davis, the award is granted annually to Waukesha County high school students who have surmounted significant obstacles to graduate and enroll in college. The scholarship reflects the life of Rep. Davis, who overcame a modest start on his family’s rural Wisconsin pickle farm to become an attorney and a respected lawmaker.
In a letter thanking the foundation for the scholarship, Caitlyn revealed one more experience she shares with Bailey.
“Eight days after I received this award, Bailey called me out of the blue. Muffled through the tears, I heard, ‘I got it, too!’ She received the same award as I did through your generous foundation. We sat there on the phone crying in awe.”
Bailey is now enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Caitlyn won the Davis scholarship on the recommendation of her teachers at Catholic Memorial High School, not only for the way she dealt with her mother’s illness but for her perseverance through a series of injuries that cut short her dreams of being a dancer.
“I had been dancing since I was three and my studio was my second home,” she says, recalling a rigorous schedule of dance practices five days a week. Beginning in 7
grade, she endured a fractured ankle, three knee dislocations, a shattered bone in her second ankle, a torn tendon, and two ruptured disks in her spinal column.
Caitlyn has other dreams now, as she begins her new life as a college student. She plans to double major in international business and Spanish and has her eyes on ever wider horizons.
“I can’t wait to make new friends and partake in the study-abroad programs at UW-Whitewater.”
The Davis scholarship honors the kind of determined and ambitious spirit that Caitlyn and Bailey share. As Caitlyn puts it, “Despite the odds we made it through—together. We persevered through it all.”