“What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some children, the answer is “an astronaut!” Or “a ballerina!” For Cori Anthony, the answer was simply “I’m going to college!”
Anthony still remembers her mom’s words from a very young age. “You’re going to go to college someday,” she would say. Stepping into higher education as a first-generation college student would have its challenges, but Anthony was determined to make this goal a reality.
“All I knew about college was to apply,” Anthony reminisces. “I remember one day my high school principal announced, ‘Don’t forget to file your FAFSA!’ The first thing I did when I got home was ask my parents what on earth a FAFSA was.”
As a first-generation college student, Anthony and her family were new to the process. With so many steps standing between her and campus, becoming a college student felt like a far-off dream.
Enter Cassie Patterson. Patterson was a Grace College admissions counselor who took Anthony’s hand and walked her through the admissions process. Patterson took the extra time to support Anthony – even if it meant driving out of her way to pick her up from the train station.
“Getting out to Grace was no easy task,” shared Anthony. “I came to visit by train from Maryland to Elkhart, Indiana, where Cassie picked me up. I’ll never forget how important she made me feel!”
The second Anthony set foot on campus, she fell in love. What stood out to her most, however, was not the campus itself, but the community surrounding it. Anthony remembers seeing a group of elementary students excitedly heading out of the school next door and walking straight to Grace’s campus to be greeted by college students for an after school program.
“I remember thinking, ‘I want to be a part of a college that is connected to their community like this,’” shared Anthony.
That passion for her community was what led Anthony to choose her degree. At first, Anthony pursued counseling in undergrad, but she soon realized that a master’s degree would be beneficial as well. That is when she remembered the kindness of Cassie Patterson.
“She made college accessible for me which impacted my life in a huge way, and I wanted to do that for others,” says Anthony. “So I finally chose the master’s in higher education.”
The online format of the master in higher education degree afforded Anthony the opportunity to learn from professors that she may not have met otherwise. Because she lived locally, she was able to get to know some of the online professors face-to-face.
“I liked that my master in higher education classes were backed by real buildings with real people that I could go see if I needed to,” shares Anthony. “I had seen some of these people in undergrad on campus, so they were familiar to me in the online context.”
Deb Musser was one of those people for Anthony. “She was an amazing role model for me in undergrad, so I was excited when I saw that she was one of my online professors as well!”
With the support from her professors, Anthony, a first-generation college student, finished college with a master’s and a bachelor’s in just four years.
The important decision Anthony made in her second year at Grace is what directed her to the role she plays now. She currently works as a dual credit college advisor at Ivy Tech which involves advising high school students, working on program development, and assisting in dual credit and dual enrollment. The work Anthony is doing helps students be able to graduate high school with transferable and career-applicable college credits. She views this role as an opportunity to equip high schoolers with the knowledge and skills they need in order to make an informed college decision: the exact thing that she needed in high school. She refers back to her master in higher education classes often as she thinks through the best ways to support her students.
“My online thesis is something I come back to regularly,” shares Anthony. “It was titled Bridging the Gap Between Lower Income Students and Their Education. Often I will meet with a first-generation college student coming from a lower income home. Many of these students are even responsible to contribute to the income of their household, which means that college may feel unattainable, but it’s my role to hold their hand and give them hope just like Cassie did for me.”