The quote on Kali Riley’s graduation cap says “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” To her this is a good piece of advice to give to any graduating high school student. “When you discover your passion, go for it with everything you have, even if you don’t make a lot of money.”
And if there is one thing Kali is passionate about, it’s bringing healing to a world that is full of pain. “I want my life work to be all about making a positive impact and providing hope to those who need it.”
Inspired by the many people in her family who made their vocation helping people, Kali volunteered at summer day camps as a high school student. It was at Camp MAGIC, a program for kids who have lost loved ones, that she understood her passion was to serve children.
She came to USI because it was not too far, but far enough to step outside her comfort zone. She found more than confidence--she met her future husband on the Honors floor. He started as merely a friend, and the floor’s go-to guy to fix your printer or computer, but a couple years of friendship blossomed into love and culminated with a lakeside proposal behind Ruston Hall (where the Honor’s floor is located).
During an internship at EVSC’s Academy of Innovative Studies, an alternative high school, her eyes were opened to the emotional trauma teenagers face. “Being an alternative high school, the students are stereotyped as bad kids. This is so far from the truth. One of the things that stuck out most to me was that several students had parents who wanted them to drop out of school and get a job to contribute to the family. But some of those students wanted to stay in school and finish up.”
Her graduate internship at Lampion Center gave her the opportunity to work with other aspects of trauma, from mental health and substance abuse to physical abuse. She depended on her advisor Bonnie Rinks to give her support and ideas on how to cope with an emotionally draining job.
“I think it is important to remind yourself that there is good and happiness in the world. When I see kids playing, people laughing and the calm of nature, it helps remind me the world is not all negative and to push myself to be part of something positive and calm.”
Kereston Hochgesang has always thought and dreamed big. Coming from a tiny town with a population less than USI’s freshman class, Kereston wasn’t going to let being a small-town girl define her. “I feel that coming from a small town made me more excited for a new beginning and the possibility of new friendships. I was ready to try something new, be off on my own.”
When deciding on a major, the options seemed limitless too. She tried on many hats and loved them all, finally deciding on Communication Studies. She honed her leadership skills working as a student assistant in Student Development. Jennifer Garrison, assistant director in Student Development recalls interviewing Kereston and being struck by her possibilities. “She was shy at first, but you could tell there was more than meets the eye. Now I joke that she manages me more than I manage her,” she said.
Weighing her options, Kereston saw the wisdom in not limiting herself to one major. It simply made sense to turn her minor in German into a major, which would allow her to study abroad in Germany. Never one to shy away from adventure, she chose an immersive experience, living with a family and attending Freie Universtat in Berlin.
Embracing the college experience and dreaming big have molded Kereston into a confident Screagle as she prepares to graduate. “My family in the Student Development office has been so much fun to work with these past three years. They have led me on a career path I would like to pursue in higher education. All of my professors, old and new have been extremely welcoming, particularly during my transition from one major to another. All of them have provided me with ‘knowledge for life.’”
Kereston advices all students to dream big and explore their options at USI. “Don’t underestimate USI and all that it can provide you. Do what you love! That could be from getting involved in organizations you are passionate about or trying on a major you didn’t initially see yourself doing. You’re going to grow so much while you are at USI.”
When entering Princess Noura Bint Abdulraman University in Riyad Saudi Arabia, you are immediately struck by the grand, palm tree-lined entrance, the fountains, monorail, and the enormous library welcoming you onto campus. When entering USI, you are struck by the iconic, fountain roundabout, the tree-lined entrance, the lakes, the flowers, our friendly campus shuttles and the Cone welcoming you on campus. Despite the differences in the two campuses, USI has become a place that Afnan Alnashwan can call home.
“Indiana residents are lucky because of the nature they live in! I love USI because it is surrounded by nature and has walking areas! I go there often with my family, the only thing that I still can’t understand is the humidity and how some girls can keep their hair so perfect during high humidity days!” she jokes.
Far from home and family, Afnan has found a family in the students and faculty in the Master of Arts in Language Acquisition, Policy and Culture program. As much as she has embraced being a Screagle, her faculty and fellow students have embraced what they learn from her. “She had valuable insights to contribute to class, that challenged us to think deeply and broaden our imagination about education and the world,” said Dr. Joy Howard, assistant professor of Education.
With her goal of teaching English as a second language back home in Saudi Arabia, Afnan will stand out as a role model due to her experience at USI. “I want to thank Dr. Rode. She opened a door for me to the world, not only in my professional career, but in life.”
After her grandfather’s stay in a hospital due to respiratory complications, Jessica Oser’s focus became crystal clear. She would become a respiratory therapist. She was inspired by the care her grandfather received by the staff, and knew she wanted to help people breathe.
In high school, she knew her success lay in taking as many dual credit and AP classes as possible to make the transition to college smoother. “I would tell any high school student who is looking at going to college to start taking those dual credit classes. I started college with 25 credit hours just from high school. It made my college education much more enjoyable, attainable and much less expensive!”
A legacy Screagle, with her mom graduating with a degree in accounting, Jessica settled down to enjoy the college experience. After completing her associate’s degree in respiratory therapy, she easily found a job at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
When the Respiratory Therapy Program transitioned from the two-year associates program to a 4-year program, she decided to return to USI for the additional coursework. “I believe it’s very important to get that bachelor’s degree. The learning never stops. More education never hurts.”
Along the way, she met many role models and mentors, including friends and professors, who helped to shape her into the professional she is today. “They gave me a great foundation to start my career.”
Today, an amazing day at work includes getting to see people who were critically ill finally get better, “Knowing that you helped them get to that place, and had a hand in saving their life, makes all the long shifts worth every second.”
On Friday, April 27th, Cameron McBeath’s journey through higher education ends as he receives his Masters in Social Work in front of all the friends and family who saw his potential when he didn’t.
Cameron never intended to attend college. He was a high school student with below average grades and below average expectations for himself. Going into his senior year, he took a factory job, expecting to be satisfied with his life. To his surprise, he hated it. He knew in his heart there was something more and hoped he wasn’t too late. “So now, I was a high school student with poor grades and no plan,” he said.
Worried that he was adrift, he confessed to his mentor, Rev. Larry Rascoe, that he didn’t think he was meant to work in a factory. “I knew I couldn’t attend college based on my grades and what my guidance counselor had told me.” Seeing a spark in Cameron, the minister went to the Cameron’s guidance counselor that next Monday. Together they mapped out a plan and hired tutors to help prepare him for the ACT. By his senior year, he had turned things around enough to be accepted into college.
With high hopes, Cameron attended Oakland City University. However, he was not quite ready for the rigors of college. He failed. He went back to the working world, this time at the Evansville Psychiatric Children’s Center (EPCC), where began to gain purpose. He later met his wife on USI’s campus and she gave him even more direction and purpose. “I couldn’t have asked for a better loving and supportive friend.” He was finally ready for college.
With the help of Christy Baker, associate professor of social work, and Renee Rowland, director of advising, he began to understand what college could do for him and how to utilize financial aid in the smartest way possible. Like his wife, he decided to major in social work. He used his experience at the EPCC to pursue his desire to focus on helping at-risk populations. And, when he was done with his bachelors, he went on to get his master’s degree.
The road may have been longer for Cameron, but he still arrived at his destination. “You are not defined by your failures, you are defined by how you respond to your failures,” he says.
Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia