Jumping In, Flying Through, and Living the Good Life
By Schylar Canfield-Baber, 2011 Complete Your Dreams Graduate
We have a duty to help others; we have a duty to help ourselves.
I didn’t always know that I wanted to go to college. When I graduated from Helena High School in 2002 I was focused on aging out of foster care, and that was about as far as I planned. I ended going into the Marines because I didn’t know where I was going, where I was going to live, or what I wanted to be. My life was full of two many questions and not many answers. So the military was my transition plan. I figured they would provide me with food, income, shelter, and discipline. While I enjoyed the military, it didn’t last long—which I believe is a good thing. But this isn’t about my military experience, rather about my college experience. I left the military with an honorable discharge.
When I got done with my brief stint in the military, I was truly clueless and homeless. I ended up getting trained and certified as a CNA. While I loved helping others, this job quickly wore me down. I was working in a nursing home and couldn’t overcome continual loss. After moving and bouncing between jobs I decided that I had to go to school. I didn’t know what I wanted to study or what I wanted to be, but I knew I had to educate myself. So I took the jump.
I took my ACT exam after being out of high school for a year and was fortunate to pass with a high enough score to gain admission to a 4-year college. In spring of 2004, I enrolled at Montana Tech. I started as a Biology major, changed to Business, then to Health Care Informatics, and ended up in Professional & Technical Communication. Once I found my niche, I excelled.
As part of my undergrad degree I was required to take an internship. I ended up doing two summers worth of internships with FosterClub, the national network for youth in foster care. These opportunities changed my life. During the summer of 2005 as a FosterClub All-Star, I traveled the country putting on conferences for youth in care. I, along with my All-Star peers, taught workshops on coping with biological family, permanency, strategic sharing, and finding education. I worked with thousands of youth and adults. Many people I talked to said that the FosterClub internship changed me. I returned confident, secure, well-versed, and mature. I found my direction… I had a natural ability to lead and a strong compassion to serve others. In 2007, I was called back as a FosterClub All-Star Level II. My job was to educate, mentor, and role model for the new All-Star interns.
While working part-time and attending Montana Tech as a full-time student, I graduated with high honors in 3.5 years with my bachelors in professional and technical communication. After I graduated, I quickly learned that my degree field wasn’t big in rural Montana and ended up working for Wells Fargo Financial as a Credit Manager which made me miserable. I ended up getting a job at Montana Tech as an Enrollment Representative and recruiter. After being at Tech for a year I was eligible for tuition assistance.
Without studying I took the GRE and got a high enough score to get into the Masters in Public Administration program . I applied for scholarships through many organizations including Intermountain’s Complete Your Dreams Scholarship program and the Pride Foundation. I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships from everyone I applied to. Through the combination of scholarships and tuition assistance, I flew through my MPA while working full-time and took on absolutely no additional debt! I was even able to pay off some of my undergrad loans.
I walked at the University of Missoula to receive my Masters in Public Administration in May of 2011. It was a great experience to have close friends, my adoptive father, and supporters like Carol Flasnick present to see me receive my degree. It took me years of growth and understanding, but I realize how lucky I am to have the support network and built-in ability to not only survive…but thrive and live the good life.
Ending this on a good note, I want to impart some lessons learned:
- Don’t wait to study or take major exams like ACT/SAT or GRE exams. If you’re a parent, high school students should take their ACT/SAT by their junior year.
- Not everyone knows what they want to be, but we all need education. Don’t take long breaks between high school and college. Start at a community college and take basic courses. Use teachers and friends to help you find the way. Going to college shouldn’t be optional.
- Apply for scholarships, lots of scholarships. Apply every year that you wish to go to school. Students don’t need to be high achievers, super athletic, or poor…there is money for everyone if you’re willing to do the work!
- Find an internship that pushes boundaries and removes the student from their comfort zone. We live sheltered lives in Montana. We have a high quality of life—even if we are poor.
The world is big and scary and it is thirsty for people of passion. We have a duty to help others; we have a duty to help ourselves.