EXCEL Helps Student Find Her Fit

Celeste Dawson had made up her mind. She was not going to attend college, and that was her final decision. 

Her story could have ended there, but thanks to the support of her parents and a learning community program at Kent State University, her life is now filled with opportunities she never imagined.

Shortly after high school, Ms. Dawson’s informed her parents that she had decided not to go to college. That conversation did not go well.

“I was scared to transition into a new phase in life,” says Ms. Dawson, now 21. “After a lot of back and forth, eventually my parents had the last word. The first few months at Kent State were hard.”

At times, she felt as though she did not fit in, and she also did not know what she wanted to do with her life. But all that changed when Ms. Dawson chose to live in the EXCEL (Explore Careers, Education and Leadership) Learning Community in Lake Hall. The program provided the opportunity to achieve academic success, explore majors and careers and connect with like-minded students during her freshman year. 

Ms. Dawson began to spend time with her EXCEL mentors and started making friends. She also signed up for a Peer Leader training course in Kent State’s University College.

“I went home for winter break and, finally, I was super excited,” Ms. Dawson says. “But I still didn’t feel totally connected. I wanted to stay home in Toledo and be with my family.”

Ms. Dawson’s family urged her to finish the spring semester before she decided whether to leave Kent State.

“When I came back from winter break, the courses were more interesting,” she says. “I loved the Peer Leader training course. And I reconnected with friends.”  

Since then, Ms. Dawson has worked diligently to excel academically and to become a leader on campus. She has been a Flashguide at Destination Kent State, an EXCEL mentor and has been involved in Undergraduate Student Government as a senator representing University College.

For four years, Ms. Dawson has been involved with the Flash-A-Thon, a 12-hour dance marathon to raise money for children fighting cancer. She also has been a First-Year Experience Student Success Leader, a trainer for Peer Leaders and a resident advisor in Lake Hall. 

Ms. Dawson credits the EXCEL program for giving her Kent State story a fairytale ending. 

The career exploration component helped her decide to major in human development and family studies in Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services. After graduation in May 2019, she plans to attend a graduate program to specialize in higher education so that she can work with college students. 

“Being connected on campus gives you the feeling that you have a purpose on campus and helps with your academics,” she says. “Being interested in your major and being connected makes campus feel like a second home. I found my place here at Kent State. Kent has guided me to find my passion.”

Learn more about EXCEL

POSTED: Thursday, October 4, 2018 12:10 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 05:11 AM
April McClellan-Copeland