Pennsylvania

“Reach Higher and Go Farther”

by Bethany, 23 from Pennsylvania

I remember how it felt the first two years of college at St Francis University. It was a small, catholic university that was easy to grow into right out of high school. The classes were small, the clubs were small, everyone knew each other, and it always felt like there was someone there for you if you needed it. I joined every club I could – I jumped on as a leader for weekend Catholic Confirmation retreats, as a student leader in the spring break Dominican Republic trip group, interviewed to be a Student Ambassador, started my own Imagine No Malaria chapter, and loved every second of it. I remember my freshman year as a time of transformation, and my sophomore year as a time of accomplishment and self-discovery. By February of that year, I realized I wanted to “reach higher and go farther,” as the St Francis motto was, but the career I realized I wanted to go into, Public Relations, wasn’t a course offering at St Francis. Sadly, I realized I had to transfer schools. I remember driving away from campus on my last day that year and feeling like even though I was chasing my future, I was leaving my heart behind.

Arriving at West Virginia University (WVU) for my junior year, I realized quickly I was in for a big change. The school was ten times as large, everyone my age already formed their group of friends, and mine were so far away. On top of that, I felt like I was clinging to the identity I had created for myself at St. Francis, and I was finding it difficult to let go create a new identity at WVU. There were many times when I thought I made the wrong decision, that even though I wouldn’t be studying what I wanted, maybe I should have stayed…even just to be comfortable. As it turns out, I didn’t have to wait very long to form a new identity. By my second year at WVU, I was jumping into every opportunity there as well.

Fast forward to the October after I graduated from WVU, October 2013. I was a full-time digital marketer and was visiting St Francis for a monthly worship service that I used to attend regularly. Something happened during that worship service that made me think about my career…it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I realized I had been volunteering and working toward causes and with nonprofit organizations my whole life, so why didn’t I pick that for a career? By January 2014 I had quit my marketing job, and by April 2014 I had a Community Outreach Specialist job with a nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh. Almost a year later, I still feel like this job is a dream come true. I found myself in different ways in college and in life, but I never could find myself as profoundly as I did at St Francis.

Dancing

by Devan, 18 from Pennsylvania

I’m a dancer. I danced for fifteen years. Eleven of those years I was on a competitive team. My first year on the competitive team, I was absolutely terrified. I was much younger than the other girls on the team. I was seven and the next youngest was twelve. I did not have anything in common with any of the girls. I was just starting school, while they had already been at it for a while. In the beginning I wanted to quit, but my mom was always telling me to not give up the opportunity. So I stayed in the dance class, and then it came time for the competitions. We went to the first competition and we won, first place. Just when we were getting ready to leave a judge came up to me and my dance teacher. She couldn’t believe I was seven and dancing with high school students. This ended up being a common reaction among judges at other competitions. I did not know the skills I had, and I went on to have another ten great years of dance and competitions.

I had the skill to still go on after high school, I just didn’t have the body. Dance is a beautiful art and sport, but it destroys pieces of you. I didn’t go on with dance because in the end it was a constant physical burden. I had torn the cartilage off my breast bone and in my rib conjunction, fractured my wrist several times, and dislocated knees and ankles. But dance will always be in a large part of my heart. I would do it all again if I had the chance.

My Forgotten and Reclaimed Dream

by Agnes, 23 from Pennsylvania

From the time that I was little I knew that I wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. I told everyone I knew about my dreams to work in Special Education when I grew up. Any time we would have a career day or someone would ask me what I wanted to be, that is what I would tell them.

But I got a little misled and confused along the way. In elementary school I volunteered a lot in the Special Education classroom and loved helping and loved making friends there.  Everyone said I was so good working with them, and I was glad because that it what I wanted to do with my life. In high school, I also worked in a Special Education classroom and loved it but was no longer sure about that being my career choice. In between high school and college, I took the year off and thought that I would give it another try. I worked in another Special Education classroom full-time until the summer. I loved every minute of it and started to think again that this was my perfect career choice.

Then, I went to college and decided to audition for the Conservatory to become a Music Therapist and work with music and Special Needs children. However, I did not get into the conservatory and decided to become a psychologist instead.

But when I graduated with my psychology degree I realized that I was still being called towards working in special education. I wished that I had realized that before graduating from college but that’s how it works sometimes. Now I am looking into schools so that I can continue to pursue my forgotten, and now reclaimed, dream of being a Special Education Teacher.