Nan Bolar, a graduate of the Early Childhood Education program reflected on her time at UW-Whitewater during this year's scholarship awards ceremony:
There are specific moments in our lives we all remember extremely well...high school graduation... marriage.... the birth of our children, and other momentous sad or happy occasions.
In November of 2001, I was sitting at my computer wondering what was next for me. My daughter had just gotten married. My son had just graduated high school and moved away, and there I was contemplating my mid-life plan and the passions in my life. ...and then it happened. Without really knowing what I was doing, I went to the University of Wisconsin Rock County Web Site and applied to attend for the spring semester. In somewhat of a daze (after hitting the submit button) I walked into the kitchen and quickly blurted out to my husband, "I just applied to go to college!" With a stunned look on his face...he just looked at me and said "OK."
Now mind you... I did not have "a college fund" stashed away. What I did have was a mortgage, electric bill, phone bill, car payment, and other financial responsibilities. I also had the full-time job associated with paying for those responsibilities. So all of a sudden my excited heart quickly wondered what I was ever thinking. I figured at my age, I wouldn't get accepted anyway..and it HAD BEEN a long time since I had done college level math AND could I write a whole paper... AND...would I be able to find my way around campus AND...AND...AND... the doubt went on. I had dreamed of being a teacher for my whole life. Even though I found every opportunity to work with children in all areas of my life (and even raise two) I never pursued the real passion in my life ... to teach.
Then one of those momentous moments happened..I received a letter of acceptance. As I look around the room, I imagine that you are remembering your own letter. That letter was the beginning the most incredible journey I would ever experience.
My first class was at night. I felt like an elementary student. I had packed a backpack filled with the essentials. There wasn't anything I hadn't thought of. There I was, listening to the professor in my first college class. AMAZING! Then she asked us to take out some paper to take some notes. With a great deal of confidence I unzipped my fully stocked backpack and realized I had everything I needed...except paper!
Fast forward four years. I was thriving in this wonderful environment. I loved learning. I continued to work at my job of 16 years full-time and take both day and evening classes. I loved the friends I had made, both traditional college age and non-tradition aged students. My advisors were the best. They told me the best education program was at Whitewater. I met Steve Kruse at an education fair and knew this was the place I needed to be.
This time another great letter...another great moment... acceptance into the college of education. Then suddenly the shock of my first tuition bill rocked the foundation of all my hard work. So far I had paid all of my tuition with academic scholarships and hard work. Now I needed to work part-time and attend school full-time. How would I pay my tuition, AND my mortgage, light bill, insurance...?
I had a strong faith. I knew that there was a plan for me. I knew that somehow this would all come together. My experience on campus so far was truly amazing. It was a mixture of so many emotions...fear, excitement, adventure, success. I watched the younger students and enlisted their help with my new technology and directions around campus, and the younger students looked to me for what I now call "mature" advice and organization. Again, my advisors were incredible. They were able to guide my path and encourage when I really needed it. My teachers taught more than their selected subjects. They taught me to believe in myself and stay strong on this incredible journey. I went part-time at my job and took a 2nd part-time job with the School District of Beloit. If I had to work 2 jobs, at least one of them would be in my chosen field.
Somehow each semester when tuition was due, I had applied for and was awarded scholarships made possible by generous individuals who valued education and knew how it could change someone's life. The Ernella Hunziker scholarship created an opportunity for me to concentrate on school knowing that most of my tuition was covered for the whole year and take comfort in knowing my hard work was going to be realized in a college degree (the first in my family) and someday a classroom of my own.
Then to also discover that the scholarship was renewable for my senior year was more than I could have ever imagined. I would find myself looking at the award letters and reading them over and over again to make sure this was really happening. The uniquely extraordinary individuals who generously support students with scholarships truly understand how important financial and emotional support can be. It builds strength and self-determination.
Wow! And now another momentous moment and another letter. August 2011, the letter from the School District of Beloit with a contract for my first year of teaching.
Before school starts each day, I sometimes take time to walk down the halls and absorb what surrounds me. In that quiet I hear Robin Fox tell me that I will be the difference to children. I hear Kristen Linzmeir admiring my reading voice, and I hear Edric Johnson, reminding me to make my lessons engaging and exciting to my students.
But most of all I know I hear the encouraging voices and generous spirit and support of so many people who have made this dream possible. To the scholarship winners... congratulations on your hard work and successes. May your passion always be what drives your life. To the University of Whitewater, thank you for an education that will be valued, appreciated, and always used to make a difference, and finally to the amazing and generous sponsors of college scholarships, such as Dr. Ernella Hunziker, your loyalty and passion for college students, in particular adult women, enables them to realize their life dreams and their success will be forever a part of your life and memory.