From Stardom to Service: Meet TRIO Star Weslee Thompson

Growing up on the island of Guam, Weslee Thompson did not imagine attending college in Vermont. A talented athlete, he seemed destined for soccer stardom. When he was seventeen, an injury derailed his dreams. He still recalls the hurt he felt when his physical therapist told him he would never again play competitive soccer.

But one dream’s demise led to another. “Having a negative experience with a physical therapist made me want to pursue physical therapy,” Weslee says. “I knew what it was like to be in a vulnerable position. I wanted to come alongside people and work with them.” At the time, Weslee hoped to rehabilitate injured athletes.

Weslee’s new goals led him to Castleton University, where he pursued a double major in health science and psychology. Although the health science degree would give him the prerequisites for graduate school, he knew understanding human behavior would allow him to better support patients.

Like all first-year students, Weslee had to adapt to a new academic environment. Unlike most of his classmates, he had to pay his own way through college. He accepted a full-time position at McDonalds and quickly became a shift manager.

Juggling a full-time job and courses for two majors proved challenging even for a student as dedicated as Weslee. He invested in a planner. “I discovered a passion for color coordinating,” he chuckles. Always a competent writer, he met with Writing Clinic tutors and the Writing Specialist to make his papers even stronger.

Weslee’s formula worked. Now in his junior year, he still works full-time while maintaining a 4.00 GPA as a double major. Outside of class, he embraces other intellectual opportunities. This summer, he worked with psychology professor Greg Engel, conducting genetic research on ethanol tolerance in fruit flies.

And despite Weslee’s hectic schedule, he still finds time to help others. He is a writing tutor at Castleton’s Academic Support Center; he has also tutored students in anatomy and psychology. For the past two years, he has served a Student Orientation Staffer (SOS), helping new students acclimate to life at Castleton. Being a mentor has proven rewarding. “I’m most proud when people come up to me between classes and say I’ve helped them,” he says. “I’m more proud of that than anything I’ve accomplished myself.”

The desire to help others led Weslee to Castleton. Since then, his journey has taken another turn. This summer, an internship at Rutland’s Back on Track Physical Therapy affirmed his interest in the field. Through his internship, he discovered a passion for helping injured veterans. “I’d like to help those who’ve served get back to their lives,” he says quietly.

During his time at Castleton, Weslee has made an excellent impression on faculty and staff. “I feel immensely lucky to have known Wes as a student and an employee,” says Doe Dahm, Writing Specialist and adjunct professor of English. “It’s rare to find a student with his level of personal and intellectual maturity. When I first met him and he said he wanted to be a physical therapist, I thought, ‘Yes. I could envision him working with my elderly family members.’ He’s ready to enter the professional world.”

 In the meantime, Weslee is making the most of his time at Castleton. He hopes that new students will also enjoy their undergraduate years. “Time management is crucial, but it is possible to breathe,” he says. “Make sure you give yourself time to pursue your own passions.”

 

What I Wish I Knew as a Freshman

College is a time of big changes in your life, and those changes can be both pleasant and absolutely miserable. For me, they were miserable.

I went to a small high school in Vermont, where I was the captain of the football and lacrosse teams and just an overall popular guy within the school and the community. Life was good for me; I had as many great friends as I could possibly ask for, and I was content with where I was.

When I rolled into college my freshmen year, I tried to be optimistic – for about a week – but not long after that, I started getting feelings of regret and loneliness.  Castleton was the absolute last place that I wanted to be. It was hard for me to leave my life, my family, and, more importantly, my best friends, who I had been with my whole life.  I spent that whole first year miserable and depressed. I went home every single weekend, trying my hardest not to leave my past life behind me.

Life since has gotten much better, all because of a few simple changes. These tips certainly will not be universally helpful, but if I can help even one person get through some hard times, I will feel better about my tough start.  

So that said, here are some things I wish I knew as a freshman:

You are not too cool to participate: This was a big one for me. I roomed with a friend from high school, so when the time came to participate in orientation events or activities put on by community advisors, I turned up my nose at the idea and refused to get out and do some events. I chose to just be with the person I knew best at school. I missed out on opportunities to meet new people and make friends by not participating in campus events.

Realize that college IS a new chapter in your life: As painful as it may be, high school is over, and you’ll be better off not trying to avoid that fact. Keep your great memories and hold them close, but it is time to go out and make some new ones!

Talk to someone: Alright… to be honest, I heard this from professors all the time especially in first-year-seminar, and I neglected to listen. Don’t be like me. Talk to someone. Whether it’s a friend, or a roommate, a professor, a CA, or even someone in the Wellness Center, I promise it will feel better if someone knows how you are feeling.

Make campus your home: Going home on the weekends is great. I still do it from time to time. But for me, each time I go home, it makes it harder for me to want to come back. So try to make your dorm as comfortable and as homelike as possible, and stay on campus on weekends. It is hard to get a college dorm to replace the place where you grew up, but the more at home you can feel at school, the better.

Evaluate your options: All colleges are different, college isn’t for everyone, and that is perfectly fine. Evaluate if Castleton is the place for you, and if it isn’t, try something new.

This is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution to a happy freshmen year. But if I had done these things, my first year here could have been much better.  

Take a deep breath, and just know that everything will be okay.

-Isaac Ryea

Isaac Ryea graduated summa cum laude from Castleton University in May 2018. Today, he is a fifth grade special education teacher in Highgate, Vermont.

 

 

 

 

Procrastination: Know It, Beat It, Use It

stressedstudentYou knew about the paper for your history class two weeks before the deadline, but you didn’t start it until the night before it was due. There was really no way you could have begun earlier – not with the labs for your science class, your big stats test, and all the reading you’ve had to do lately. Sure, things got a little rushed: doing all your research online at 11pm wasn’t ideal. And maybe you didn’t proofread as carefully as you might have. But you got a B- on the essay; that proves you work well under pressure, right?

Many college students admit they procrastinate. Some wish they could conquer this tendency; others don’t perceive it as a problem. However, putting off assignments and study sessions can make you more anxious and less effective. If you’re rushed, you won’t work as carefully, and you will make more mistakes. Had you put more time into that history paper, that B- could have become a B, B+, even an A.

So if procrastinating is such a bad idea, why do so many students – and professionals – do it? Think about why you saved the green beans or mushrooms for last when you were a kid. Part of you hoped they would go away or at least become tastier by the end of the meal. But you finished the rest of your dinner, and there they were: colder and more unappetizing than ever.

By saving them for last, you didn’t make them disappear. You made them worse.

No matter how much you want to change, altering your habits can be hard. Here are some tips to help you overcome your procrastinating tendencies:

  • Talk yourself through it. Every time you’re tempted to delay an assignment, tell yourself that putting it off will only make it more difficult – and make you more stressed.
  • If you need help, get it. It’s tempting to put aside what we find difficult. If you’re struggling with an assignment or course material, meet with your professor, join a study group, or use the tutoring services at Academic Support.
  • Break it up! Too many students try to complete essays and projects in one sitting. The next time you receive a large assignment, try dividing it into multiple smaller tasks. For example, if you write an essay, you might brainstorm and create an outline one day, compose a rough draft the next, and revise your paper the day after that.
  • Celebrate each success. Change is difficult. Everyone who’s overcome a weakness knows that. (And that includes all of us!) Accept you will slip up occasionally, and reward yourself when you succeed. Indulge in a cupcake, meet up with a friend, or relax with a favorite book or movie.

As you change your approach to your academic work, you’ll find yourself replacing your procrastinating habit with a planning one. And as you become better at organizing your assignments, you’ll find yourself with less stress – and more time for the things you enjoy!

-Dorothy A. Dahm