Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Year of Gratitude #9

 A Year of Gratitude #9: My College Education

At the EMU Honors College Awards Ceremony

I should start by saying that when I graduated from EMU in December of 2000, it was MILES from where I had ever thought I'd end up.

When I was in high school I was a decent student. I made decent grades... always above a 3.0 but usually a 3.5 was average for me. I think when I graduated, I ended up with a 3.49 total- not spectacular by any means, but not awful either. I made a "good" (not great) effort and as a return, I had okay grades. I never studied in high school and never gave 100% effort to my schooling. High school was about socializing, having fun, and oh, there were those pesky classes happening at the same time. Most subjects came somewhat naturally for me, and I didn't have to put too much effort in to get by. I never really challenged myself, or felt especially challenged.

When I applied for college in the summer of my junior into senior year, I decided to apply to MSU (Michigan State), OSU (THE Ohio State University- with emphasis on the word THE), CMU (Central Michigan), EMU (Eastern Michigan), and Capital University (in Ohio). I was accepted into all of them and then was offered a soccer scholarship (partial tuition) at Aquinas College and Sienna Heights College (both in Michigan). I passed on the soccer scholarships because we couldn't afford the tuition even with the scholarship (both are private schools).

I decided to become a Spartan (MSU), though, if I'm being honest, my heart always wanted to be a Buckeye. I chose to stay closer to home because of the relationship that I was in at the time with my ex. Looking back, I let a lot of opportunities pass me by because of the relationship with him.

When I went to MSU... I was totally, and I mean COMPLETELY unprepared. My math scores were so low on the ACT that I was required to take a math placement test at orientation (many people have to take placement exams). I was able to "place out" of all the other placement tests, but had to do the math and as a result... (big surprise here) I didn't even place into the entry level math. I had to take Math 1825... which was the class BEFORE you can get into Math 101.

Every time I would arrive in East Lansing, I'd get this really WEIRD feeling in my gut. Almost like butterflies mixed with doom and dread. I can't describe the feeling, other than to say it was alarming to me and I always felt it. No matter when I was arriving on campus, I felt the same feeling. 

After my first semester... I was a lost mess. I went from being okay in high school to being lost as a Freshman. I decided to volunteer as an elementary tutor at a local school and should have taken the time to get MY OWN tutor. I never studied and was confused when I saw my suite-mates studying.

Add to this the craziness of living away from my family for the first time EVER, having a TERRIBLE pot-smoking, slutty roommate (she was my teacher's daughter on top of it so I couldn't bitch and complain because I was afraid he'd find out), and it was just a bad time for me. I ended up getting placed on academic probation because of my 1.98 GPA for the fall semester. Stupid me had stopped going to my math class (I was failing) but never dropped it, so it brought down my entire GPA.

When I went to see the academic probation person, she said that I was just barely on probation and to just study more and focus on getting things turned around. Sounded easy enough. So my roommate moved out, a friend from down the hall moved in and it was so much better.

I took the semester off from math (it was too much) and met my new battle... history class (which I liked) with my lab (break out session) led by a GA (graduate assistant) and there were like 15 of us in this lab. If I didn't do the readings that the professor assigned during the lecture (of 200+ students)... my butt was always in trouble in the lab. 

I found out that I wasn't the best writer coming out of high school. All the smoke blown up my butt by high school teachers did me no good when I took my first writing class at MSU. I'd never seen so many red marks on a paper and been asked to see the professor during her office hours. When I went, she told me that I needed to challenge myself and that I could be more... but the effort I was giving was unacceptable. For the first time in my life, I was knocked down a few pegs in the writing department and told (basically) that I sucked.

I can vividly remember walking to class and coming to terms that I'd never graduate from MSU with a high GPA. I was okay with that... I was okay with graduating with a 2.0... as long as I graduated and my diploma said MSU on it, that's all that mattered to me.

During the winter semester it was COLD... and snowed and snowed and I had to walk across "the tundra" to get to class (I've learned that what used to be a very large field known as "the tundra" has become tennis courts and is no longer there). I made foolish choices (too many times to count) to stay in and watch television or movies instead of going to class. Again... I didn't study and instead of focusing on classes like I was supposed to, I decided to join a sorority.


My saving grace is that I only pledged it and didn't actually get to the membership phase... good 'ole MSU saw to it that I was not eligible for active membership... so I was a "hold over" to be initiated and activated in the fall of 1995 (which never happened).

When the end of my Freshman year arrived... I had been told to change my major from elementary education to something else... anything else, because you can only apply for the college of education your Sophomore or Junior year. Since my GPA was toast, I was going to have to apply my Junior year instead... so I had to officially change my major. At the time, I was okay with giving up my dream of teaching, and just went with an undeclared status.

In May of 1995, my grades came (I was at home since the semester had ended in April) with the news that I was not invited back for my Sophomore year. Out of 26 attempted credits, I had earned 13. I finished the winter semester with a 0.8 GPA (yes... that's correct) and my overall GPA was a 1.3.

I was more than embarrassed. I was humiliated and felt like a failure. My dad called me stupid for the first time in my life, and left a wound that to this day hasn't healed completely. I had to figure out what I needed to do to get back to MSU. So... I applied (like an idiot) to the "second choice" schools on my list. I applied to transfer to EMU, CMU, and even (gasp) U of M Dearborn. 


I was ashamed that I couldn't get into any of these four-year schools with anything less than a 2.0. With my 1.3... I was screwed. So I sucked up my pride and went to Schoolcraft Community College and applied and they accepted me. They even accepted my 13 lousy MSU, BIG-TEN credits.

Then something miraculous happened. I met with a GC and he asked me what my goals were. I told him that I wanted to get my grades up and transfer back to MSU. He told me about the MACRO agreement (basically, participating schools in the state will take transfer credits from CC to major schools). He said that I could pick just about any school in the state and transfer my S'Craft credits over... GREAT!!!

I thought I was set and then he dropped the bomb on me that changed my future. He told me that I COULD go back to MSU... and yes, they'd accept me (provided that my GPA was acceptable). BUT... when I went back, I'd return with my 1.3 GPA and that's what I'd have to start with. All the classes that I had failed (and there were so many), I'd have to retake to get a higher grade. He said I'd be taking huge steps forward at S'Craft, only to take twice as many backward if I went back to MSU.

I had to come to the realization that being at MSU wasn't in my future. He suggested that I take a college success class and said it'd help me get back on track. While I can't say for sure, that class and the book "Becoming a Master Student" changed my future.

I walked into that class on my first day and saw Alison Stoner (now Nameika) sitting there. What the heck was she doing there??? She had been at CMU and had come home and was at S'Craft like me. She and I became really good friends while at S'Craft together... my grades SKYROCKETED and I started getting 4.0s each semester. I was HOT TO TROT!!!

I was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. For the first time in a REALLY long time, I was proud of myself and so were my parents. I had really taken my studies seriously, went to the library and actually studied, and I just kicked butt. As a result, when it was time to head back to school for the fall of 1996... I had applied again to CMU, EMU, and U of M Dearborn. All three accepted me. 

Since Alison and I had become close, she was heading back to CMU and was going to be living with our other friends that were also there (during the year at S'Craft, Alison and I went to CMU many times for the weekend to hang with the other girls and we all went on Spring Break together too in Panama City Beach, FL). I had to make a decision... do I go to EMU or CMU?

I decided that I'd go to the school that accepted me into their honors college. I was asked to apply to be in the CMU Honors College, but automatically a member of the EMU Honors Program. I was set! I decided to become an Eastern Eagle.

While in college I joined Phi Sigma Pi, Coed National Honors Fraternity and made some of the greatest friends that I've ever known. I'm friends with so many STILL that I met in PSP. I became the chapter president for two years and earned our chapter its first national awards.

I also joined Alpha Gamma Delta while at EMU and decided to give Greek life another shot. This time was so much different from my immature days at MSU. I didn't let myself get swallowed by the organizations that I joined and I maintained that I was there for schooling and learning, not for partying and socializing.

As a result, I graduated with honors from EMU, was in Order of Omega Greek Honor Society, Golden Key, and Phi Delta Kappa Education Honor Society. I had completely turned my life around and walked out the door with a GPA that was a 3.6-- a far cry from the 1.3 at MSU at the end of my Freshman year.

So what does this have to do with my gratitude??? I'm thankful for the opportunity that I was given to go and make the mistakes that I made, and to be able to fall flat on my face. I'm thankful that when I fell and felt like I couldn't sink any lower, I had family and friends that were there to pick me up, and not make me pay for my mistakes for the rest of my life. Yes, they judged me for it... heck, you might be judging me now that you've read this. 

I'm just thankful that not only was I able to fail and learn from my mistakes and turn my life around, but I was given the opportunity in the first place. My parents payed for all of my schooling. Even when I failed, my parents paid. When I was at MSU and not doing what I should have been doing, my parents would come and visit and they'd take me out to eat, they bought me food, and they gave me spending money. They allowed me to have the most incredible time and while I failed, the memories from my college years are simply amazing.

From spring break trips (several paid for by mom), clothes, shoes, and other stuff (paid for by mom and dad), trips to the PSP Convention, Grand Chapter, and other events... all paid for by mom and dad. My apartments at EMU... paid for by mom and dad. My books and supplies... mom and dad. My tuition... mom and dad. And when I walked across the stage at the EMU Convocation Center on December 17, 2000... I didn't owe EMU or the government a dime. It was all paid for.

I graduated on a Saturday and had my graduation party on Sunday. I got a call on Sunday from the principal at the school that I had just finished my semester of student teaching at... and he asked me if I wanted a long-term sub position. I gleefully accepted and he told me that I started on Monday.
Graduation Day at EMU (With PSP Friends)

Had I not had the education provided by my parents, I wouldn't have been able to become the teacher that I am. 
Me and Grandma Ghrist at my graduation party

Who knows where my life would have ended up had I decided to return to MSU in 1996. I'm just thankful that my parents saw the potential that I had and believed in me and supported me as I picked myself back up and started at S'Craft. 

I'm grateful for the luxury to fail and be able to succeed.


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