Connections – Episode 26

When Jodie read this memo, she recalled one of the lessons from her professor’s class. He was talking about fate and how it often determined our life’s journey. But he stressed that for fate to intervene on your behalf, you need to be fully aware of opportunities and make the most of them. That message was very clearly validated in this next memory.

You changed the trajectory of many students who you mentored. For me, personally, I would have never been able to attend college, let alone graduate from college without your guidance and support. Your unwavering care for me, along with all of your students, truly is what got me through college.

When I was a senior in high school I was accepted into all of the colleges I applied to. The tricky part for me was finding a school who would accept the fact that I was an emancipated minor, and I did not have parent information to provide on my FAFSA applications. Without financial aid, or proof I was able to pay for school, they would not accept me. On top of that, as a 17-year-old, taking out a personal loan for over $20,000 a year was not exactly an option. Only one school would let me attend for the first semester by allowing me to take out specialized grants/loans they had set aside for students in “special situations”.

Once I got to school, I immediately realized that you were an asset to keep close. From your very first emails and classes, it was like you were speaking directly at me when you said we could see you for anything and any situation.

It took me a little longer than it should have to open up to you. I remember going to see you for my first advising appointment, and finally explaining to you my situation at home. I did not have a family to rely on. I was at school trying to prove to the financial aid office that I could get such good grades that they would want a student like me at school (or at least, that is the speech I gave in my head over and over again in fear that I would not have a way to continue on at school). As soon as I told you of my situation it was like you immediately knew everything to do. No judgement, no “shock factor” – just an action plan. It was incredible, and so refreshing. You did not pity my situation, rather, you wanted to get me out of it, and so did I. You knew everything I needed to do. You let me know of different avenues to find aid, and how to make sure I had enough money to cover all living and education expenses.

You had me interviewing for co-op positions that same day. You literally told me to go home and change so that I would be presentable to talk to companies and to come back in about an hour so you could bring me a to a few companies you thought would be a good fit – I will never forget that! Who would have thought an older man telling an 18-year-old to tidy up; I chuckle to myself about it till this day. I am sure anyone reading this that had any relations or interactions with you understands your delivery of “go home and change” that I am referring to. You were amazing, to the point, yet so gentle all at the same time.

From there, I consistently went to see you prior to classes at least once a week it felt like. You would get in your office around 6AM, and lucky for me the parking police were not awake that early to tow me. You helped me with classes, financial planning, and so many life events that I could not begin to explain.

One of the most prominent situations you saw me through was when my mother went into the hospital my junior year of college. She was airlifted to a nearby major hospital back in upstate NY, where I am from (which was a 7 hour journey from WVU). I so happened to get one of those freak middle of the night phone calls. You were the first person I talked to. Again, no judgment, no shock, just thoughtful direction. You took care of everything for me. From missing classes and exams, to helping me communicate missed materials with professors. You were always there for me. I was traveling every weekend at least, back to see my mom. She was hospitalized for nearly two years, right up until my graduation.

Without your understanding, compassion, and mentorship, I would have never completed school passed my first semester, let alone realize how to navigate life in general. You were a true guardian angel to me, as well as to others. Eventually after learning my childhood background and some of the things I endured growing up, you connected other students with me so that I could also serve as a mentor to students who needed some guidance and resources.

I never knew how much those relationships would mean to me, and I could never thank you enough for setting me up with those students. I now continue my mentorship here in DC, supporting a local non-profit to get middle school and high school students interested and able to attend college. Some of these students would have never had the opportunity to attend school, and maybe otherwise would have never considered it, just like me. You have been such an inspiration to me and my life.

Lilly – Class of 2015

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