Making School Your Home: How Donor Support Gives Students a Place to Belong

May 5, 2020

The Pacific Northwest has always been my home. I love the rainy weather, the scenic Puget Sound, the proud mountains, and the beautiful woods. I grew up on Bainbridge Island, and I went to school in a multi-age program with 72 students from grades one through six. 

Ours was a small, close-knit community. I have always been used to making school my home, and a place where I feel safe, heard, and welcomed. 

When I was looking at universities, I wanted a place where I could find each of these things. Western Washington University has an Honors Program where I knew I could find a small community and make my home among a group of dedicated students. 

In 2017, I was awarded a two-year academic scholarship and the Anderson, Carey & Williams Scholarship to come to Western, and I accepted. Since storytelling is a passion, and has been since I was really young, I chose an English major with a creative writing emphasis. 

Last year, I received the William E. Smith Technical Writing Scholarship, which helped me afford a study abroad summer trip with my class called Italy: Text to Fresco. I have no religious background, which is a bit of a joke in my family since our last name is Dutch, and it means “pious.” However, I took the class because I wanted to expand my knowledge and experience of religion, and I learned so much. 

One of my favorite moments from that trip was when our class had the chance to visit the Pope’s private chapel. It was so special because we were coming from a day in Rome where we had visited populous art museums. I am claustrophobic in crowds, so moving from that environment into this quiet open space felt amazing, like a religious experience. The entire trip was incredible, and I intentionally used our required journaling assignment to write down or draw pictures of all the moments and things that had meaning for me. 

Recently, I took a podcasting class with one of my favorite professors, Jeremy Cushman, as I was applying for a job with the Rusty Quill, a UK entertainment production company and podcast network. Thanks to the work we did for this course, I had actual projects to show on my resume. I had podcast episodes to link in, and I knew the editing tools and the lingo, which made me a competitive candidate and helped me secure the job. 

Professionally, I’ve learned so much. I work remotely and I have contributed creative work in designing soundscapes for 34 Rusty Quill episodes. For example, the sound of rice pouring sounds like little scampering bug feet. I’m always learning new things all the time. 

Here at Western, I’ve started a podcasting club on campus, and am getting ready to apply for larger podcasting corporations when I graduate. This is something I’ve become very passionate about. It’s big, and it’s daunting, and it’s really exciting.

Donor support is so important, and I was grateful to meet my donors at the last scholarship event. For me, it’s been very hard to feel like I have a right to be here. I have had doubts about being smart or creative enough and about having something to bring the world. So, having someone who sees my value, who thinks I belong here, and who wants to help me be here is hugely important because it helps me to see this in myself. It’s about having someone who is willing to stand behind me and give me that extra push to do the things I want to do. It means so much, and I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received.