The following story was written by Elaine Schaffter (pictured), a University of Findlay senior majoring in art and multi-age visual education who recently underwent a semester of challenges that no student ever imagines.
For most college students, senior year is what they have been looking forward to all along. It is the beginning of the end, and the start of new beginnings. It is also often the busiest year for college students. August 2021 started my senior year, and it started off busy as can be. At the time, I was president of Phi Sigma Sigma and was on campus, and beginning on August 1, for training and events. I was also in the process of helping to plan Oiler Bash and various other Homecoming events with the alumni office. Sprinkled throughout event planning, trainings, and the beginning of classes, I was also traveling home – my sisters were starting their freshman year of college and junior year of high school, my youngest sister, grandfather, and grandmother all had birthday’s that month, and fair season was about to kick off at home, meaning there was a lot to do to prepare. In September though, everything came screeching to a halt.
On September 3, my grandpa passed away suddenly. This caused me to miss about a week of classes due to travel and the funeral process. Growing up, I was close to my grandpa, living only a mile down the road from him. My fondest memories include large portions of time spent in the barns during lambing season, helping with chores, and waiting for the next lamb to be born. A few weeks after the passing of my grandpa, disaster struck again. On September 23, my youngest sister tragically passed in a car accident, just after her seventeenth birthday. In just three short weeks, my life, and the lives of my family changed drastically.
For many students, this would have been a breaking point. For me, it was a pushing off point. Returning to classes only a week before my junior field placement was to begin, I persevered. I couldn’t imagine stopping everything in my life. My grandpa was one of my biggest supporters when it came to my education. He was always asking how my classes were going and my plans for my future classroom. My sister would have been furious if I put everything on hold. Grief is hard. Not letting it consume you is hard. But I had a massive support system and a whole team of people who were there to help me back up. I can’t thank them enough.
I chose to continue on with the semester, though not without difficulty. Junior year is one of the hardest years in education. You’re in the classroom all day, every day, for six weeks, and in my case, still taking other classes alongside teaching. I was able to balance everything with the support of my friends, my family, and my professors. The amount of support was astounding. My professors were amazing. They checked in on me frequently, helped me work out a system that would allow me to catch up from missing almost a month of classes, and
encouraged me, while still giving me the grace I sometimes needed. I don’t think that ever would have happened at a bigger university. My professors individually created new assignment dates that worked around my field placement so that I could catch up, paired me with other students within my classes to provide extra support, and worked hard to make sure I would complete the semester. I was able to participate in the winter show put on by the University of Findlay Theatre Program, complete my presidency within Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, and continue my duties as secretary of Alpha Psi Omega because of my professors’ willingness to work with me. I couldn’t imagine any other university providing me the support I was given at UF. We’re a community here – something that many of my friends at other universities don’t get to experience.
I want to thank University of Findlay donors as well. I am blessed to be a scholarship recipient here at UF, and in many ways, those scholarships saved me this year. I missed almost a month of classes, but also missed almost a month of work. That was really hard. Because of my scholarships, I didn’t have to stress about tuition on top of everything else. I couldn’t have completed the semester without the support of the University of Findlay. That’s the Findlay difference though – UF’s main priority is their students.
I took extensions in two classes and worked through winter break to complete them. With hard work, dedication, and all of the support of my family and friends, I finished the semester on the dean’s list. My grandpa would have been calling me to tell me he read my name in the paper right about now. I miss that, but I was so proud to have done it. It hasn’t been easy. It’s been far from it at times. But having the amazing support system within the University, and from my friends and family who have stood by my side through it all? That’s what has gotten me through the last six months, and will continue to get me through the coming months.
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