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Take the Pieces When You Go

I had been crying for two days. I had just completed one of the hardest semesters of my life and I found out that a class I needed to take during Maymester would not be covered by financial aid.

To provide some background, in Spring 2013 I took 19 credit hours while waking up for 6 a.m. field hockey workouts, volunteering in a middle school for MAT, working, and my family was struggling financially. I was eating PB&Js and pasta every day because it was cheap and my hair was thinning and my acne was out of control.

After a cathartic end to my semester, I was ready to slow down and take my Maymester course and resume a nanny job that I did over the summer. It was two days after the class started that I found out I could not pay for the class, though I needed it for MAT and to graduate. Not to mention gas prices had skyrocketed that summer, so on top of the $1000 for the class, I had to pay $50 every time I drove to and from CNU from my home in Williamsburg.

The only choice I thought I had was to drop the class and beg for at least half of the money I had already paid back.

I went into my professor’s office to ask her to sign the form, my throat closing up and my tear ducts already warmed up from crying the night before. I blubbered through the whole thing. Coincidentally, the professor was a psychology professor, so she calmly listened to my laundry list of reasons why I had to drop the class.

I thought she would just sign the dotted line in the end so we could both go our separate ways, but all she had to say was, “Did you say you lived in Williamsburg?”

So following my 10-minute spiel, all she had to ask was where I lived. After we established that I was from Williamsburg, she explained that it just so happened she was too and that she would drive me to class every day (because Maymester classes meet Monday-Friday). She also said that since the only thing we do on Fridays is take the unit exams, I could take the exams on Thursdays after class, so I wouldn’t have to make the trek to CNU on Fridays.

My tears began flowing down my face again as she said she really wanted me to take the class so I could graduate on time. Since I wouldn’t be using $125 every week for gas, I was able to work out a plan with my mom. I could pay half of the tuition and she could match it. I texted my professor that night to tell her the good news; I would be staying in the class, and she could pick me up in the morning!

After all this, my story had a happy ending. I finished the class and could rest for the remainder of the summer until my senior year commenced. I learned so much about CNU as a community through this experience. I discovered CNU hires professors that care about their students, and will truly do anything to help them succeed.

Maybe the thought has crossed your mind or maybe it hasn’t, but I wanted to share what my professor and I would chat about every day in the car. We covered the surface level topics like the weather and what we did on the weekends, but she also made it a point to ask me about my future plans. I was in her class because it was a MAT requirement, but she pushed me to really think about why I wanted to be a teacher and if it was the right fit for me.

Almost 2 years later I went back to these conversations and thought of others I had had with staff at CNU, and I realized teaching in a classroom was not for me. That being said, teaching in general is for me, just in a different way.

After my professor taught me lessons through her compassion and our 30-minute chats on the way to and from school, I discovered that teaching others did not have to take place in a classroom. There are plenty of ways I could develop those around me and have a significant impact on their lives.

So here I am, a Student Engagement Fellow, now interim Hall Director for Santoro, and a freelance writer hoping to take the little pieces of advice that I was taught here at CNU and share them with others through my actions and my writing. You’d be surprised; holding the door for someone in a place that isn’t CNU is often returned with a surprised look and the most sincere “thank you.” I encourage you to take the small acts of kindness that we value here with you wherever you go – you just might make someone’s day.

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