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May 2, 2008
By John Trent
Adrienne Goetz can still remember the face, the hair, even the glasses, of the person who pushed her toward college.
Goetz had just turned 16.
She was a junior at Truckee Meadows Community College High School.
And she was struggling with some personal challenges. Her grades, normally never a problem, were close to bottoming out.
Enter her junior English teacher, Kathleen O’Brien.
O’Brien noticed Goetz’s falling grades. But more than that, she noticed that Goetz’s normally compassionate and giving nature had changed.
“Kathleen is one of those great teachers who cares about you as a person,” Goetz said. “I was being way too over-dramatic about things, the way you are in high school, and Kathleen encouraged me to work through it. She encouraged me in my writing skills. And about the future. She encouraged me about going on to college.
“She took the time to care about me as a person, and it’s something I’m never going to forget.”
Kathleen O’Brien is just one example of the numerous teachers, counselors, family members or friends that have encouraged the Class of 2008 to be where they are today – on the cusp, in a few more weeks, of becoming college graduates.
It’s stories like these that the University would like to know about.
Tell us about the person, the teacher, the steadying influence who encouraged you to go to college.
Using the form above, tell us about this special person. Who were they? Where did they teach? Why were they so special to you? Do you remember any particular moments where their influence helped you decide that college was the proper path for you?
For Goetz, it is obvious that her junior English teacher will always hold a special place in her heart.
Although O’Brien had a nurturing personality, Goetz also remembered O’Brien for her strict adherence to high standards.
“She was one of the most anal teachers I ever had,” Goetz, 22, of Reno, recalled with a laugh. “I remember reading ‘Hamlet’ in class, and we had to read it in the old Shakespearean language, and we would be stumbling through it all … very terribly. But that was the way Kathleen wanted us to read it. She made us reach her standards. She never, ever, not once, bent her rules.
“She made me want to reach her standards by the steadying influence she was and the caring concern she had.”
As graduation day approaches, Goetz said she has thought about O’Brien frequently. The two actually had an impromptu reunion recently at a local coffee house. As Goetz saw her former teacher, many memories flooded her thoughts.
Here was the teacher who was responsible for Goetz having a minor in English at Nevada. “I’m a psychology major, but I have a creative writing minor, and if not for Kathleen, I wouldn’t have been that way,” Goetz said. “Because of her influence my writing side was drawn out, and now I love to write. ”
Here was the teacher who was, perhaps more than any other teacher, responsible for her upcoming graduation.
Robin Turner, bachelor of science in accounting: My parents, John and Cindy Gilliland. "There was never 'pressure' to get straight A's, only the expectation that I would do my best. My parents are my heroes. Their triumphs in life inspire me to be a better person, and a college education has given me the foundation that I need to make an impact in this world."
Stacy Rice, bachelor's degree in social work: "My mother went back to school when she was 50-years-old with nothing more than an 8th grade education. She got her GED and went to nursing school. Education was never really important growing up, but I always admired her for fulfilling her dream, and now I am fulfilling mine."
Drew Kachurak, bachelor of arts in journalism: My mom, Barbara Pinocchio, never had the opportunity to go to college, she has always wanted her children to do their best in school and attend college to earn a great education. I dedicate my hard work and college diploma to my mom, the smartest lady I know.
Philippa Lockwood, bachelor of arts in international affairs: My first class, my first semester, of my first year in college was Global Affairs 100 with Dr. Carina Black. As an outspoken, intelligent and worldly individual, Carina pushed us to see beyond established borders and into the wider world. As a result of the standards set by Carina in that first class, I have pushed beyond my own limits and borders and, this May, I will be the first International Affairs student to graduate with a focus in African Studies.
Danae Oar, bachelor of sciences in health ecology. My parents, Shirley and Donald Oar, have always pushed me to do my best in life, no matter what the direction was. College was the way to becoming a PA, so that is where i went. They always wanted the best for me...and the best was reaching my dreams no matter what they were.
Maria Paula Giraldo de Rogge, bachelor of science in biochemistry: My mom always said "the only thing I am going to leave you for sure is an education" so she did.
Steven Caloiaro, bachelor of arts in political science: Mr. Longeiro, my High School Government teacher, is the person who pushed me to be better than I was. He was not ok with anything but me working to my fullest capacity. Not only was he a great instructor, but went further, sending me to the Republican national convention and getting me a job with a U.S. Senator.
Jessica Stark bachelor of science in marketing: My Grandma, Audrey Batty, knew I would do great things in my life and she always reminded me how special I was. In her eyes, I was special enough to succeed greatly in higher education. She wanted me to be an independent successful woman and the path to that was an education. I'm now graduating with a BS in marketing and will be continuing to get my MBA.
Fatima Nunez-Santiago, bachelor of science in Accounting: My parents, who have sacrificed so much in order to give their children the opportunities they didn’t have, are my inspiration. They have showed me and my siblings the meaning of hard work and determination, their perseverance inspired me to do my best in school and in every aspect of my life. Today more than ever, I hope they realize that their sacrifices were not in vain. My parents gave me the opportunity to dream, I dedicate my diploma to them.
Joseph Garton, bachelor or arts in English/secondary education: Lori Farias, my 11th grade English Teacher, opened my eyes to a world I didn't know existed—an American dream un-like any other! Now I get to be a teacher and share in her image, knowledge, and passion for humanity.
Ashley Benoit, bachelor of arts in Journalism: My father, Richard Benoit, inspired me to go to college because he did it himself. In fact, I remember him receiving his masters degree as a young child. My father was in the Navy, the Air Force, he pipe-lined in Texas. He married my mother and had three children. He then became a professor at UNLV. And as I look at his life I know I did the right thing by going to college, because of his inspiring life I can live mine.
Max Rinaldi, bachelor of science in biology: Anita Alger, my high school biology teacher, taught me to love biology and she inspired me to go to college at 15 years old and now to continue on Vet School. Even today I remember and use what she taught me.
Nichole Bailey, bachelor of arts in English literature: Mrs. Doherty and Mrs. Issel, my High School English and history teachers. They helped me really know how much I loved history and English. With their encouragement I found something I was good at and enjoyed. They always made learning fun and pushed for your best.
Kristen Linke, bachelor of science in human development and family studies: I have always had a hard time with school but still have the motivation to keep going. I have hit many bumps in my college career. I have finally made it and I wouldn't have without the love and support of family and friends. The people that were there for me all the time were my family. They always told me to keep going and not let anything stop me from my dreams. My grandpa passed away in March and he was supposed to be there to finally watch me cross the stage. Before he passed he let me know how proud he was of me that I am finally graduating with my bachelors degree. He always told me that I could do anything that I wanted. Well, I am here and I am graduating all because my family believed in me
until the end.
Ashley Gibson, bachelor of arts in education: My parents, David and Terri Gibson, for as long as I can remember have pushed me to be the best person I could be. They allowed me to follow whatever path I chose and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. My parents never had the opportunity to attend college but they wanted me to have a better life and gave me the opportunities that they were not given. Their love and support has inspired me to teach and to give back all that they have given me. Thank you mom and dad!
Margaret Getz, bachelor of general studies: My husband, Paul Malikowski, always encouraged me to attend my classes and allowed me the time to complete my assignments. My coworker, Chris Champagne, P/T instructor, also encouraged and supported me to attend classes and complete my Bachelors program. It is never too late, even at the age of 51, now I can continue on for a Masters Degree.
John Trent is senior editor in Digital Initiatives.