Name: Mary Meier
Hometown: I moved a lot as a kid, but I ended up in Cottage Grove when I was eleven. Since then I've grown up here, and I've made this place my home. I don't know if I'll ever leave.
High School: I went to both Cottage Grove High School as well as Al Kennedy High School in different years, and dual enrolled while I was pregnant in 2012. I graduated from Kennedy in 2015.
College: I started at Lane Community College 16 days after I graduated from Kennedy when I was 19. Summer term was rough, but I didn't want anything getting in my way of starting my first degree. It took three years to complete my Associate's degree at Lane. I graduated in 2018 and now I am attending the University of Oregon.
Year in school: Second term of my Bachelor's program
Major: I pursued my AAOT in General Social Science and Human Services, and am currently working on my Bachelor's degree in Family and Human Services.
Activities involved in on campus: During my time at Lane, I was involved in the clothing stash, helping students get free clothing and hygiene products. I also spent a lot of time in the multicultural center working with students. I ended my last year in student government but I only got to spend six months with them before I completed the term. I also did some internships and worked at my high school during an after-school program to help students finish homework and get a hot meal before heading home, or wherever they may be going that night. Currently, I am not involved in any campus activities as my goal is to work through my internships and complete my degree on time.
I've built connections and have moved forward in ways I never thought I would during my time in college. I've found people I love, gotten motivation to finish things I'd put off, and have gained an independence that I was lacking before I started.
What is one of the best things about college?
So far my favorite thing about college has been finding people I want to have in my life forever. I've made friends that I feel very close to like I've known them my whole life. I've built connections and have moved forward in ways I never thought I would during my time in college. I've found people I love, gotten motivation to finish things I'd put off, and have gained an independence that I was lacking before I started. However I can't lie, college is extremely hard and has tested me in ways I never imagined. It is nothing like high school, and has been a learning experience since day one; more than just academically.
How has GEAR UP helped you?
GEAR UP was one of the most accessible grants I received and it helped me maintain a household as well as pay for my education. I haven't had to pay a dime out of pocket or take out a single loan since I started college and GEAR UP was a part of that achievement.
What are your future career plans?
In pursuing my degrees in human services, I have been following a goal to become a social services liaison for South Lane School District. During my time at Kennedy, I got to see a little of the work that is done by my liaison when I became pregnant at 16. The work she did made finishing high school possible for me, and she gave me a support I couldn't find anywhere else. It inspired me and pushed me to start college with the dream of filling a role like hers.
What advice do you have for other students?
My biggest advice to all students no matter their grade, age, or ability is to just please don't give up. It's going to be hard, really hard, and it's going to make you sick sometimes thinking of just how much you will have to push forward. Things are going to happen that will make you feel like you're going to fall through the earth, but even if you stumble, don't stay down, get back up and keep pushing forward. The satisfaction you get from perseverance and proving all your fears wrong will greatly outshine the darkness you had to crawl through to get there.