From Kent State to Tulsa, Okla.
Kent State University’s TRIO Student Support Services program went the extra mile for senior Sharon Crawford -- 945 miles, to be exact.
Ms. Crawford, a Kent State University senior majoring in public health, lives in Tulsa, Okla., and takes online classes while working as a respiratory therapist. Ms. Crawford is a single mother of four and has three grandchildren. She reached out to TRIO SSS after deciding to attend Kent State to receive her bachelor’s degree in public health. TRIO SSS assists first-generation students, designated income students, and students registered with Student Accessibility Services in navigating campus resources and creating a meaningful Kent State experience.
Ms. Crawford’s story is not one of a typical Kent State student in the SSS program. Almost all of the students in the program live near the Kent campus or in one of the on-campus residence halls. Being on or close to campus allows SSS students easy access to tutoring services, the opportunity to participate in workshops and to attend on-campus events and off-campus trips. With Ms. Crawford living in a different state, it was a unique opportunity for Kent State to bring her into the program.
“Sharon actually reached out to our staff and explained that while she lives in Tulsa, she wanted to know if it was possible to join our program,” said Adam B. Cinderich, director of Student Support Services. “And we said ‘Yes.’ Despite not being local, she has been able to complete her meetings and stay in touch with us by phone and email. She sought us out and applied to the program, and there was no way we were not going to welcome her here.”
Mr. Cinderich has family in Tulsa. When he visited them during Thanksgiving break, he took the opportunity to meet Ms. Crawford.
“A month or two into the fall semester, when my wife and I realized we were going to Tulsa, it kind of hit me, ‘Well I wonder if she’s [Ms. Crawford] going to be there over break,’” Mr. Cinderich said. “I reached out to her and said, ‘We haven’t met in person yet, but I’m actually visiting family in Tulsa over Thanksgiving break. Are you going to be around? I would love to meet you in person.’”
Mr. Cinderich said he wanted Ms. Crawford to be able to say she met someone from Kent State’s SSS program. He also wanted her to have some Kent State goodies. Ms. Crawford responded with gratitude.
“It was very shocking in the first place that I was going to get to meet someone from Kent State,” Ms. Crawford said. “He reached out to me asking to meet and wanted to make me feel a part of the university -- not just a student as a number, but that I was a part of Kent State’s family. He brought little things from there so I could actually feel like a student, and I appreciate that. It made me really feel like I am on my journey to success.”
Ms. Crawford knew she always wanted to go far, but did not know she was going to go back to school until she was laid off from her job. After graduating from Tulsa Community College in May of 2018, Ms. Crawford said she had the motivation to further her education because she did not want to get stuck in the situation of being without the credentials needed. She started looking around to see what institutions offer a public health degree when she found Kent State.
“(Mr. Cinderich’s visit) just concreted that my decision about coming to Kent State was the right decision. Just to have people like that; that was awesome,” Ms. Crawford said. “He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to offer that. He was on vacation. For him to take time out of his schedule -- for him to come and meet me -- I feel really honored.”
Ms. Crawford worked in the healthcare field for 20 years prior to being laid off. When she is finished with her bachelor’s degree, she intends on pursuing a master’s degree. She said the experience with Mr. Cinderich made her feel proud to be a part of a school that acknowledges its students and goes above and beyond to make students feel appreciated.
“Being a first-generation (college) student, I’ve never seen this for myself. Not only am I doing it for me, but I’m doing it for my mother, who passed, and for my grandkids,” she said. “I’m carrying them in my heart.”
“It’s more than just doing it for me. I’m doing it to take care of patients and try to be proactive and reactive, and I feel like I can learn how to do that here at Kent State … I feel like I’m in the right place to learn those tools for my future.”
For more information on Kent State’s Student Support Services visit: www.kent.edu/studentsupportservices.