At one point, Jasmine Keefer didn’t know if she’d be able to attend college. Her parents didn’t have the resources to help her, and as first-generation college student, she found the financial aid maze bewildering. “If I wanted to go to school, I’d have to pay for it myself,” she says. She knew she’d have to work two jobs to pay for her tuition – and even then, affording college would be a struggle.
But when Jasmine arrived at Castleton University in Fall 2014, help was waiting. Through the Summer Transition Program (STP), a week-long program for new students, she grew comfortable on campus and formed firm friendships. She also connected with the Academic Support Center’s (ASC) full-time counselors. Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services, helped Jasmine unravel the intricacies of financial aid. With the help of Kelley and Castleton’s Financial Aid officers, Jasmine found a way to pay for her education. She’d still have to work, but she could remain at Castleton and pursue her goal of becoming a teacher.
But Jasmine did more than stay at Castleton – she thrived. Today, Jasmine is a senior multidisciplinary studies major with a concentration in math and a 3.30 GPA. She is also earning a certificate in civic engagement. After graduation, she hopes to obtain a master’s degree in special education and eventually teach math in a K-6 school.
The breadth of Jasmine’s extracurricular involvement would be impressive even if she weren’t working two part-time jobs while studying full time. She plays trumpet in Castleton’s wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, and spirit band. Since her sophomore year, she has also served as the treasurer for Phi Eta Sigma, a freshman honor society. Jasmine believes her activities complement her academic endeavors. “My passion is playing trumpet,” she says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with teaching, but it’s important to do something you love.”
While Jasmine’s academic prowess and time management skills are impressive, her personal warmth and dedication are even more remarkable. Since her first year, she has worked at the ASC as a learning center assistant, helping senior support staff with reception and special projects. “LCAs should be welcoming and knowledgeable about our department, and Jasmine has been wonderful in that regard,” says her supervisor. At Castleton, Jasmine has also served as a STP mentor, TRIO Texting mentor, and, most recently, STP lead mentor. As a mentor, Jasmine nurtures students with the same fears and struggles – financial, personal, and academic – she once faced. For Jasmine, that role doesn’t end once the program concludes. “The most satisfying thing has been maintaining relationships with mentees,” she says. “It’s cool students feel comfortable coming to me with problems.”
Jasmine’s dedication doesn’t just impress her fellow students. During her time at Castleton, she has earned the respect of faculty and staff. Becky Eno, academic counselor, has known Jasmine since she enrolled in Summer Transition three years ago. She admires Jasmine’s persistence. “Jasmine has faced financial and personal challenges every year,” Becky says. “Yet her determination to succeed, her work ethic, her willful resilience always triumph in the end. She is an inspiration.”
-Dorothy A. Dahm