KIRKSVILLE — Madeline Cummings is 19 and a freshman at Truman State University studying health science pre-med. On sunny days, she can be found walking barefoot on a slackline that's set up between two trees on the Truman campus. But that's for now. Here's what she says about where she's come from, and where she wants to go:
"Growing up, in books you always see a mom and a dad and a boy and a girl and an animal. That's what you see as an American Dream ... being married, having children, living in a big house, being happy. I guess that's really the American Dream — being able to do whatever you want. You see it around us — the same exact examples of that. But really, deep down inside I feel like a lot of people really are still struggling for that American Dream even though, to us, they have achieved it. When people strive to have the American Dream, sometimes they become unhappy with what they really have."
Cummings grew up in Kansas City. She told me that watching people strive for the typical American Dream — and still live an unhappy life — has caused her to forge her own path. Her dream is to become a doctor who provides medical care to people in foreign countries with Doctors Without Borders because she believes that "it's always better to help other people than just do things for yourself."
She plans to become an osteopathic physician instead of a medical doctor because she thinks it's a better fit for what she wants to do in the future. She said that once she completes her training, it's important that she realizes that she's "made it" and is thankful because she knows that younger people will be looking up to her.
Her American Dream also includes staying married for life and raising a family that includes children adopted from other countries.
This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.