In my graduating class of 96 students, only four of us pursued college degrees.
I grew up in Carmel, Maine, where the opportunities available to most adolescents included working in a family business or in the retail or manufacturing sector in nearby Bangor, or enlisting in military service. College was a rarely discussed topic and an option that very few graduating seniors pursued.
In my graduating class of 96 students, only four of us pursued college degrees. We were all friends and we all became first-generation college students. Each of us also had had a transformational moment or experience that had opened our minds to going to college.
Mine occurred in eighth grade when my science teacher, Mrs. Elaine Jones, invited the class to write an essay about science and its impact on the natural world. She challenged our creative writing with the promise that she would select one student to accompany her to the Department of Marine Resources in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, for a summer research program.
I began to dream that I, too, could become a scientist…
I spent hours developing my essay and was fortunate enough to be selected. After two weeks as a young apprentice to marine biologists and shore land scientists, I discovered a world of deeper learning and investigation, and the role that science can play in helping to preserve the natural world. I began to dream that I, too, could become a scientist, but I was well aware that a college degree would be necessary to realize this dream.
My parents were incredibly supportive and both encouraged me to consider a college education. This choice had been out of reach for them. It was not the path that my older brothers sought for themselves, and it was not the path that many in our town believed was achievable.
My parents and I worked with guidance counselors and researched admissions requirements and financial-aid opportunities. My mother and I also spent hours in the driveway, developing my skills in basketball – hoping I might be able to merge my academic and athletic passions.
Our collective work led me to Keene State College. I remember traveling here on move-in day, the fears my mother had as she drove away, leaving me at Carle Hall, and the strength my father showed, assuring both of us that I would be okay. It was a very emotional day.
I had no idea what to expect from college, and my parents had no idea what to expect for their daughter in her collegiate pursuits. I was fortunate to be welcomed into a community of athletes and an academic program in environmental chemistry. I was surrounded by a group of supportive faculty and staff who cared deeply about their students and colleagues alike, who helped to demystify college and to challenge my development.
Keene State College is an academic community that remains committed to supporting one another and helping students reach their greatest potential.
Those first-generation students who have taken a different route from that of their parents or grandparents (44% of our current entering first-year class) have peers, faculty, and staff who understand and support them as they blaze a new way for others in their families to follow. Although an unknown path, at Keene State College, it isn't a treacherous one.
Our global society demands, as never before, that we all possess the capacity to work with technological advances and cultural diversity – making the value of a college education more important than ever.
Collegiate study opens the mind, expands one's views, and instills in those who pursue it the intellectual nimbleness and skills to adapt to an ever-changing world. Our alma mater continues to excel in preparing graduates for the world they will inherit.
Melinda D. Treadwell, PhD
Dean of Professional and Graduate Studies