I was a student at a community college in Springfield when I met Chip Parker. It was a fluke that I stopped at the table and talked with him. If it had not been raining that day, I would have rushed past him without ever noticing. But since I had to pause to shake the rain off my umbrella, I decided to check out the information he was obviously peddling on the Ozarks Technical Community College campus that day.
The brochures were for Drury University. Right then and there I figured I was wasting his time and mine as well. I had that stereotypical state of mind that Drury was something I would never be able to afford. I was working as a receptionist, barely making ends meet. I had a hard enough time funding my education at the community college level. The concept of a private university was one which I never dreamed possible in light of my economic standing.
Chip asked me what I want to do. "I want to write," I said. He told me about Professor Jo Van Arkel, Dr. Resa Willis and Dr. Randall Fuller. The names meant nothing to me then, but I gave Chip my full attention. After all, who wouldn't indulge in the dream of going to Drury, even for just a few minutes? By the end of our discussion Chip had me convinced that I could be a student at Drury.
Over the next few months I made several visits to the Drury campus. I met with Chip, toured the English and communication departments and collected scholarship applications. I kept hearing that a full year at Drury would cost about $13,000, an overwhelming figure compared against my yearly income. Being a 31-year-old non-traditional single student, I had no financial resources other than my own. The concept of parents paying my tuition or having a husband with a decent income to supplement my financial needs was not a possibility. I was rather doubtful that my new-found dream of being a Drury student would ever come to fruition.
Chip kept telling me it could happen. He made me feel like I was wanted at Drury, and that I was the only one keeping me from being there. I still had some doubts as to whether Drury was the place for me to continue my studies, but all of my doubts were linked to my fears of accumulating student loans which would far exceed my annual income. In the spirit of giving it my best effort, I turned in every scholarship application I could. When it came time to take out a student loan, I was terrified by the figure. I had somewhat of an anxiety attack and I found myself in Chip Parker's office once again, this time trying to get him to help me rationalize how I could willingly sign myself up for this kind of debt. He was so calm, so understanding and most importantly - encouraging.
I knew Drury was where I wanted to be, but kept thinking that there was always the possibility that when I graduated from college I would end up working at yet another dead end job. Student loans would come due and I would not have the ability to pay them. Chip made me realize the benefits of an education at an institution like Drury would outweigh any debt incurred through student loans, and that my fears of an inability to obtain gainful employment after graduation were highly unlikely, because Chip and I both knew that I am the type of person who can do anything I set my mind to.
By the end of our discussion Chip had me a believer, once again, that Drury was the place for me to continue my education. With only a week left to register for the next semester, I had to act quickly. Chip helped me expedite the financial aid process and I tried hard not to think of the student loans I would soon begin to accrue.
I held on to the thought: if I was going to study, I want to study from the best. I could not find any reason to believe that I deserved anything less than the best. When I think about what Springfield has to offer in way of education, Drury is the best. That's what I thought then and it's what I still believe after completing my first full year as a Drury student. My chance meeting with Chip Parker set into motion a series of events that have changed my life.
Remember my goal for the future? I wanted to write. In my first year at Drury I have been able to edit a poetry anthology in Jo Van Arkel's class; from English seminar with Randy Fuller, publish an interview with my favorite author, the mystical and magical Tom Robbins; be part of the editing and production staff of the spring issue of The Bonfire; and work an internship for University Communications that gave me the opportunity to publish stories weekly on the Internet.
My internship has now turned into a paying job and my opportunities to write are enlarging on a daily basis. I find myself wondering why I ever had an issue with the cost of attending an institution like Drury; the experiences I have been offered in my time as a student far exceed the final line on any student loan. My first year at Drury has left me in love with the university. I now laugh at my previous inability to see the benefits of an education at Drury. The professors I have had the fortune of experiencing in my first year have been nothing less than amazing and I am certain my development in the time I spend at Drury will lead me to a successful and rewarding career when I graduate. All the hours I spend weighing the amount of student loans against the value of an education at Drury were undoubtedly wasted. The experience I have gained in my first year at this university have made me come to believe that in student loans, I truly do trust.
Stacy Shoemake is a junior writing major.