From Reluctant Student to Public Health Advocate: TRIO Star Kyla Leary

kyla leary

Before Kyla Leary enrolled at Castleton, she wasn’t sure whether college was right for her. She’d struggled in high school, and her high school teachers had emphasized how challenging college classes would be. “I was afraid of the volume and level of work,” she says. And like many new students, she worried about meeting new people.

Once Kyla arrived in Castleton, she found a host of people waiting to welcome her. “I had an amazing suite my first year,” she says. She joined the cheerleading team and made more friends there. She took classes in Mandarin Chinese and studio art. And despite her initial anxieties about meeting new people, she discovered she had a gift for presentations when she earned an A+ in Effective Speaking. Her professors proved friendly and approachable, and though Kyla sometimes needed help, she found it – and lots of encouragement – at the Academic Support Center (ASC).

Today, Kyla is a senior Ecological Studies major and Global Studies minor with a 3.15 G.P.A. She balances her academic achievements with athletics: she is still a member of the cheerleading team, and she plans to join the varsity track and field team this spring. She attributes her success to the assistance she received through Castleton’s TRIO program. During her time at Castleton, she has taken advantage of the ASC’s tutoring services and met with many of its full-time staffers. “It’s so nice that we don’t have to pay for tutoring; it’s not that way at other colleges,” she says. “And each year, I’ve learned more about time management, improved my math and writing skills, grown socially, and become more independent. I can figure out when and how to ask for help.”  

After graduation, Kyla plans to work at Johnson Group Consulting, Inc., the national public health advocacy firm where she has interned for the last two summers. During her internship, Kyla discovered she had a knack for data when she caught a serious error in a report. Kyla’s attention to detail impressed the firm’s director, who offered her a full-time position after graduation. Kyla also plans to take classes in public health after she leaves Castleton. But her ambitions don’t end there: she hopes to work overseas for a bit and eventually build a career in maternal-child health. A lifelong animal lover, she also dreams of extending her advocacy to animals.

Although Kyla seems to have the world at her fingertips, she still remembers what it felt like to be a new student in an unfamiliar environment. She encourages other students to seek support at the ASC. “I always tell other kids to ask for help, especially if they had a 504 or IEP plan in high school,” she says. “I tell them not to worry about what others think and to not think of any support they receive as an advantage or disadvantage – it’s just a resource. And the ASC is just such a good, safe place to study. Everyone in the department is working for you.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

When You Can’t Move On

college-student-depression

What can’t you get over? A bad grade? A bad semester or year? A breakup? The person you were in high school? Mistakes you’ve made? What’s between you and success?

There’s no question about it: moving on after a painful period can be tough. Sometimes, it can seem almost impossible. And in some circumstances, you might not even want to move on entirely. For example, losing a loved one can be painful, but you probably don’t want to forget that person. In other cases, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can be difficult.

But feeling frustrated and discouraged doesn’t just mean a series of bad moods: it can interfere with your ability to do well in college and meet your goals. So if you can’t move on, keep moving! Here are some ways to keep going even when you find yourself in a rut:

1.) Take care of yourself. This means eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising, and getting regular check-ups. It also means taking time to do the things you love: reading, watching a favorite film or television program, practicing a hobby, or getting together with friends and family. Start thinking of yourself as a person with physical, mental, and emotional needs. If you’re healthy and well rested, you’ll be far better equipped to deal with any problems that may arise.

2.) Get out of yourself. Do something nice for someone else. This can be as involved as volunteering for a charity or as simple as really listening to a friend or family member. Hearing about others’ problems will make your own seem less overwhelming. And for a few hours or minutes, you won’t be thinking about your own pain or frustration.

3.) Try something new. Have you always wanted to eat Thai food, tap dance or go on a particular hike? Now is the time to do it. Even listening to a new genre of music or reading a different kind of book is energizing. You won’t like everything you try, and don’t feel you have to the finish the book or continue with tap if you don’t enjoy it. But you’ll never know until you try.

4.) Figure out what you have to do. If you’re a college student, this means attending class, completing assignments, and submitting them on time. Some students also have jobs, bills, and family obligations.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try reevaluating what you really do have to do. Could you take that class another semester? Reduce your hours at work? Cut your expenses? What changes would make your life less stressful? Figure out what you have to do. And do it.

5.) Get Help. Remember: you are not alone. There are lots of resources available right on campus. Here at Academic Support, we can help you find a tutor, understand your bill, manage time, and improve your study skills. If you need to talk to someone about personal issues, meet with a counselor at the Wellness Center. And if you’re not quite sure who can help you, ask anyone at Residence Life, Wellness, or Academic Support. We can point you in the right direction.

If you find yourself dwelling on the past and feeling unable to move forward, know you’re not alone. Most people, including professors and university staff members, have been through rough periods. Get help if you need it – and realize that you don’t have to solve all your problems at once. Sometimes, we don’t leap forward: we take baby steps. And that’s okay.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

 

 

 

Get Ready, Get Set, Get Organized!

stress_000The last week has been a blur. You’re adapting to a new schedule – and maybe changing that schedule as you add or drop classes. Professors are inundating you with syllabi and assignments, you’re planning to meet up with friends, and you’re trying to fit homework around your job or extracurricular activities. The semester’s hardly begun, but you’re already overwhelmed.

There’s no question about it: the start of the semester can be chaotic. (Even faculty and staff may find new routines stressful.) However, choosing an organizational system – and sticking to it – can relieve tension throughout the semester and help you be a more successful student. Here are some tips to keep your academic and personal life in order all year long:

1.) Use one binder per class. You need a dedicated three-ring binder – or at least a notebook and folder – for each class you take. Even if your professor puts your notes and assignments on Moodle, you should still have a physical location where you can store handouts, drafts, and other documents. Keeping track of deadlines will be much easier if you keep all the materials for a specific class in one place. Take notes on a laptop or other device? Make sure you set up an electronic folder for each course on your schedule.

2.) Plan ahead. Buy a planner. There’s nothing like being able to see all your commitments and deadlines in one place. You can buy a planner at the Castleton Store; if you prefer an app, check out myHomework. Whether you choose a traditional planner or an electronic one, invest in one that will show you a week at a time. This will give you a sense of how you should structure your free time for the next few days.

3.) List it. Planners and planning apps show you the week at a glance. A “To Do” list lets you list your priorities for the day. For example, your “To Do” list for a given Saturday might look like this:

To Do

            -Write draft of history essay.

            -Start research for psychology paper.

            -Go to the gym.

            -Get a haircut.

            -Call Grandma and wish her a happy birthday.

“To Do” lists can be paper or electronic; choose the format that works for you. Note: you can also create “To Do” lists for specific projects. This can help you break down large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks.

4.) Pause. When you’re juggling multiple commitments, life can get confusing. Being a full-time student is full-time work – and most students also have outside jobs, extracurricular activities, or family obligations. Occasionally, even the most organized and conscientious among us lose track of our priorities. When you find yourself stressed, overwhelmed, or unable to focus, stop whatever you’re doing and take a deep breath. Take a few more breaths, and then write down everything you have to do. Look over your list. Which items do you need to do? Which do you need to do now? Which tasks could you put off for a few more days? Are there any you could reschedule or even skip? We’re not advocating shirking responsibilities or blowing off assignments, mind you. But if you have to study for a biology test, finish a history paper, and attend a club meeting, make sure the test and paper come before the extracurricular activity. Sports, clubs, and socializing are all important, but academics should always be your first priority.

Some stress is an inevitable part of college and life in general; however, with a little planning, you can avoid the sensation of moving from one crisis to the next. Sometimes, a little structure can mean the difference between dreading your responsibilities and enjoying them.

-Dorothy A. Dahm