Finding Community on Campus and Beyond
Kalila Brooks has been studying at Keene State for just a semester and a half, but the campus has already made its mark on her – and vice-versa.
The first-year student from Weare, New Hampshire, has been active in the student newspaper, a community service group, a new sign language club, the Student Honors Council, and the Hall Council in the Living Learning Center dorm, where she shares a wing with other Honors Programs students, just to name a few. She takes advantage of lectures and events on campus, she has a work-study job that she loves, and she’s the recipient of a couple of very prestigious Keene State scholarships.
“I like being involved in things,” says Brooks, “and doing things, and making people feel welcome and feeling like I’m a part of this Honors Program group. Keene is my home. I’ve been here less than a year, but honestly this place feels more like home than anywhere else.”
Brooks opted for majors in elementary education and general science because, as a homeschooler through grade 10, she often had to figure out how to teach herself new concepts and information. “I really came to enjoy discovering new things,” she says, “and being able to know and understand something that I didn’t know existed moments before.”
The College’s Morris-August Honors Program has given Brooks considerable opportunity for academic exploration. The honors humanities course she’s currently taking looks at Benjamin Franklin from a variety of perspectives – founding father, scientist/inventor, slave owner – via a number of historical texts. Students in the class come from a variety of majors, which means they bring different approaches to the study of the complex man.
Brooks shares a dormitory hallway with other first-year Honors students, and, in fact, connected with them via social media even before she arrived at Keene State in the fall, which brings an added sense of community, she says. “If I’m struggling with an assignment, I can knock on somebody’s door in the hallway and see if they can help out,” she says. “It’s really great.”
She takes seriously the charge of one of the scholarships she’s received, the Travelli-Ayling, which calls on students “to be invested in yourself, but not just in your grades,” she says. “The call of the scholarship is to be present. Go to events on campus. Be involved in organizations. Do community service. Be someone who recognizes herself as part of this community – not just part of the school, but part of Keene.”
Coming from a large family – she’s one of nine siblings – and as a first-generation college student who handled most of the college application process on her own and who will be paying for her education herself, she says the scholarships she’s received have meant a lot: “I’m finishing this whole school year without any student loans. I think it’s a miracle. I’m so grateful to people who contribute to those funds.”
Through her job with the Office of Sponsored Programs & Research, which supports faculty in applying for grants for their scholarly and creative work, she’s had a chance to connect with many people on campus. She’s met more through the Living Learning Commons, where her friends include international students. And, Brooks says, she sees people she knows everywhere she goes at Keene State. “My personality is to introduce myself to people who are by themselves,” she says. “I’ve met a lot of people, and I know a lot of people, and it makes me feel like I really belong here, to know so many people around me and to see familiar faces all the time.”