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Shealyn Teeter ’25 Alters Her Trajectory By Putting Grasping-At-Straws Days Behind Her

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Shealyn Teeter '25
Says Shealyn about her Keene State journey so far: “The common denominator is that someone has been here at every turn to give me the support I need and to have my back.”

Education has been touch-and-go for Shealyn Teeter ’25. There were times – too many, she might say – when she felt that she would not make it, and there were times when hope replaced doubt and she pressed on.

Those traces of hope, scarce as they seemed, saved the day.

Shealyn’s story is one of inspiration, resilience, and success.

Hers is also a story of not losing your nerve, finding a non-traditional path, and a college that “had my back.”

At Keene State’s upcoming Academic Excellence Celebration (AEC) to mark student creativity, scholarship, and co-curricular activity, Shealyn, a sociology major from Rochester, N.H., will moderate the Aspire panel discussion.

A big deal? You bet.

Her journey from the College’s Links program through Aspire to the AEC embodies the spirit of this 22-year-long celebration of scholarly achievement. The panel aims to explore the needs, experiences, struggles, and successes of students who arrive at college as part of a diverse community of learners, but who are easily overlooked, misunderstood, or seen as being on the periphery.

Count Shealyn — a first-generation student and recent first-time Dean’s List awardee — among them.

Aspire is a suite of academic support services designed to provide the tools students need not only to survive college but to flourish there. Study nights, peer tutoring, time management, and study skills development are some of the programs offered by Aspire. Links is a summer program that serves as a bridge from high school to college for first-time students.

When Shealyn arrived at Keene State the summer before her first year, for the Links program, she hadn’t earned her high school diploma. But she completed both tasks, passing the remaining high school classes to matriculate, and Links, which consists of taking college-level courses and earning credits simultaneously. More broadly, Links is a process of adjusting to a new home and new life and academic demands.

I like to believe that I am making my mark by creating more opportunities for other first-generation students to succeed. It’s possible; I’m proof.”

– Shealyn Teeter

Shealyn does not shy away from her failures and setbacks; they are the bricks of her fortitude. She has failed classes along the way, withdrawn from other classes, questioned her staying power, and found a new major.

“The common denominator,” she said, “ is that someone has been here at every turn to give me the support I need and to have my back.”

Pivoting from elementary education to sociology with a specialization in social work, Shealyn is newly focused and driven by the chance to work in a field where she can be impactful and empathetic with people in need, while also contributing to community improvement.

She contemplates graduate school and working with children still, just not as a teacher.

“It might be that I work as a protector and investigator for the Division For Children, Youth and Families. Or even working in the prison system.” This new path “has changed me and inspired me. I like to believe that I am making my mark by creating more opportunities for other first-generation students to succeed. It’s possible; I’m proof.”

Sociology majors, like all Keene State students, are provided opportunities to get out of the classroom and into the populations they are studying. Shealyn is applying to study next semester at The Washington Center in the nation’s capital. The Center helps students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to pursue their interests, experience what a successful career looks like, and establish a path toward their professional future.

Among her on-campus supporters, she said, none have been more helpful than Mark Schmidl-Gagne, who recommended the D.C.-based program. An Aspire Program advisor at Keene State, Schmidl-Gagne has been wowed by Shealyn’s grit and called the sky her limit.

“Shealyn doesn’t just go to class, learn the material for a test or project, and then forget it, she learns it for life,” he said. “She thinks about sociology and social work all the time, whether consciously or unconsciously because it has become part of her identity. … I love seeing a student hit all the notes in the right way, at the right time; developmentally speaking, it is amazing and rare, but Shealyn has done it.”

“She has seen how tough it can be, and yet she has not been discouraged or defeated by those events. She’s found ways to adapt to, overcome, or sometimes accept what can’t be changed no matter how hard she wants to, and these are life lessons that too few of her peers possess. Shealyn’s an impressive young woman!”

Her courage and commitment are tested continually, but Shealyn leans on her fighter mentality. Making Dean’s List for the first time last semester was a game-changer, she said.

“I felt awesome about myself, and others were so proud of me. It was also the first time I got an “A” in something other than a dance class, in high school and college.”

Shealyn said her journey is not possible without the love and unflinching belief of her mother and father, Cynthia and Richard, and the friendship of her former roommate, Rebecca Fagga ’23, who is pursuing her master’s in sociology.

At Keene State, she feels less alone than she has in all her school days. She has goals, confidence, and leadership skills that she knows will open doors and make more possible.

Shealyn belongs to Delta Phi Epsilon, a social sorority committed to growth, inclusivity, and making a lasting impact. She is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success; and serves on campus as a Peer Mentor.

She enjoys reading, nature walks, and 4-wheeling.

“Be kind to yourself and understand that you are human and so you make mistakes,” is advice Shealyn shares. “Take the opportunities you are given because they will carry you forward.”

Shealyn’s soaring in ways loftier than she might ever have imagined … the sky seemingly closer today than yesterday.

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