I came to Chester College as a non-traditional student. I was in my late 20s, married with kids, and had already published a book. I had a handful of college credits from a variety of other colleges and I thought it was about time that I finally finish my degree. During my time at Chester College, among sixty skillion other events big and small, I was pregnant and gave birth to my third child, ran my own business, published several books, and my father died. In short I had a million perfectly reasonable reasons to not continue my education. In a larger school I would have been lost in the shuffle and simply wandered away. But Chester College is not a large school and I wasn’t a faceless number.
The day before graduating we held a rehearsal of the ceremony. As I walked across the stage Laura Ives grabbed my hand, indicated the other faculty who were at the graduation rehearsal, and said “We are all so proud of you.” I felt bewildered to be on that stage, just a day away from getting a college degree, but Dean Ives made it seem as if she never had a doubt I’d make it there. During my many ups and downs the faith the faculty at Chester College had in me kept me going even when I lacked that same faith in myself.
A common theme you see in stories about Chester College is that it’s a family. And that’s not just something people say. My kids know the name of every professor I ever had there, for that matter all the professors can name my children. Heck, some of them could even tell you the names of my dogs. My children are young, and college is a long ways off for them, but I hope that when the time comes they find a creative environment like Chester College to embrace them and help them through the tumultuous times in their own lives.
Renee Mallett holds a BA in creative writing from Chester College of New England. She is the author of several books, all available or forthcoming from Schiffer Publishing. Renee Mallett covers arts and entertainment for CBS Boston and Examiner.com. “Swarmed,” a novella she wrote as part of her Chester College senior project, will be published this fall by Starling River Press.