I entered Chester College of New England a year into my college career. Colby-Sawyer College wasn’t the right fit for me despite its blossoming Creative Writing program. Having been to Chester before, I knew it was a tight-knit community and fairly close to my home so I could save money commuting. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, so I went into it with some skepticism. After attending a few semesters, I finally felt the creative drive resonating from the school.
At Chester, every professor knows me by name. Every professor is aware of my abilities and failings as a writer and a student. They all know of my love for good writing and passion to help others achieve. At Chester, the professors are people that I can talk to as peers as well as mentors, and every student is each other’s mentor in one way or another. I’ve been through writing critiques where students spark inspiration in each other in a frenzy of excitement and laughter – everybody loves what they do here. I’ve become a much better writer in my time here and I’ve made connections with people that I’m sure will persist into the future, no matter the fate of the college. I’ve never been pushed so hard to extract the best of my talents onto the page than in classes and workshops at Chester. The faculty and students all deeply care for their art and they will push you and push you to excel and then they will push you beyond your box until you know you’ve hit something diamond-like in the heart of your brain.
Chester is the home of the artist. We are the people who were picked on, the bookworms, the adults returning to higher education after a slew of misfortunes. The abused, the forgotten. The vibrant, the excellent, the unique. The conglomeration of genders and sexual orientations and philosophies. The artists, the writers, the thinkers. We’re the epitome of ‘go ahead and judge us, but we have a lot to show you, and many stories to tell.’
If Chester should close, the world would lose just one more hot spot of innovation and creativity, and those who scoff at us would help the world ease into uniform gray where we once burst color like a prism. Chester College has seen me through many setbacks and metamorphoses in my personal and professional life. There is no better place for a creative mind to incubate and grow.
Struggling with major depression and anxiety growing up, the idea of college seemed like a totally unrealistic venue for my personal growth –expansive campuses, nameless faces, cold, unfeeling professors… I nearly dropped out of high school, because my only talent seemed to involve art, and my transcript reflected this –what university would possible accept me? Senior year, the principal of my high school approached me with the message “Art is important, it is in everything. Follow it and find yourself.” So I did. A close friend from high school was attending Chester College of New England, and she highly recommended the establishment because of its size.
This school, albeit small, has been my home for the past three years. I was accepted with a 1.7 GPA coming out of high school, which has since escalated to a 3.53 – Dean’s list. CCNE is unique in its willingness to forgive past mistakes and accept new students based on their artistic talent. I personally was accepted based on my ability to interview well, and the portfolio I put together. Upon acceptance, I was awarded a “Merit-based” scholarship.
Here at CCNE, my professors understand me and are more than willing to work with not only myself, but every student based on an individual basis. Both faculty and staff are fiercely loyal, loving, and accepting. We’re a family and we’re in this together. When informed that our home may be in jeopardy, the response was insurmountable. I never thought I would belong to a community like this, let alone that I would be welcomed into it with open arms. I am not fighting for myself; I am fighting for future generations who struggle with themselves to find solidarity and direction, like I have. I am fighting because I must. I am fighting because Chester College of New England is worth it. I am fighting because I found my dreams here, and I intend to follow them. Get mad, Stay mad, Chester!
I am a 26 year old Fine Arts student at Chester College.
I have been attending since Spring Semester 2009. I am only one semester away from graduating.
It’s been almost 9 years since I finished High School- 9 years since I set out on my journey to reach my goal. It has far from easy… I had to start and stop school whenever I ran out of money or whenever I couldn’t fit a class around a work schedule. But I have always known what I want to do. It had always seemed so simple.
I knew I wanted to be an art teacher. I knew I wanted to study art and everything that went along with it. I knew I wanted to draw and paint all day. I knew I wanted to talk about art all day. I thought about how lucky I would consider myself to be if I could get paid to talk about art all day! I decided I wanted to be an art teacher around age 10. Again, simple, it just sounded like the coolest (and rewarding) job to me.
At Chester College, I am a student, but someday, I hope to be a teacher doing as amazing a job as the teachers at Chester College do. I have witnessed great things and understand my goal more clearly than ever. I have tremendous respect for all the teachers here. They might not have noticed this, but I have been paying attention to everything in class, from how they conduct the class, to mastering the lesson being taught, from admiring syllabus and lesson plans to remembering the best methods on how to teach others. I love telling my non-Chester College friends all about the incredible things I am learning. My non-Chester College friends are usually amazed. And all of us at Chester College know why they are usually amazed.
We have the greatest community here. The teachers and the students all care about each other’s works and offer the most constructive critiques. Another reason that I want to be an art teacher is to be able to give my students the highest quality of education I can. The teachers at Chester College do just that. This college sometimes feels more like a dream than a small liberal arts college. To anyone who ever wanted to explore and express ideas individually their own, Chester College is the perfect place to do so. And everybody wants to see each other succeed and reach their highest potential. However, it has always disgusted me how money is the deciding factor in regards to the quantity of education one can reach. It has always broken my heart that a person’s potential has to apparently be purchased these days. If Chester College were to permanently close, students will have lost a great college that was affordable, flexible with payment plans and located in its own sweet community.
In fact, this sad could-be future holds a sensitive space in my heart. Like I said, I have only one semester left until I graduate, but must finish my senior show before I can officially graduate. The theme for my senior show is eerily similar to the current situation. I was inspired by items people had thrown away. On the side of the road, in a swamp, in the woods, didn’t matter as long as they were clearly trashed. My oil paintings are to focus on the idea of purpose and the discarded items convey a sense of purposelessness and void. These paintings are sometimes described as pensive and melancholy. My ultimate goal with these is to get people to think more about their own purpose in life. It is killing me inside to think that the very College I have been supported at and have grown so in love with could meet the same fate as the discarded items in my paintings.
I still hope to graduate from Chester College and then attend grad school. I still hope to reach my ultimate goal and look back at my times in Chester with the most appreciation and love for all the lessons learned and memories made.
Chester College is where the future writers, artists and leaders of our society are studying. This is where a person can truly find themselves. The world needs more places like this.
Chester College offers such a unique experience that if anyone ever says “Chester College of the woods?” We can say, “Chester College, the gem of the woods”. And this gem has a voice.
My first high school in Northern Virginia had a student enrollment of over two thousand. I recall doing the math once, accounting for graduating and incoming classes each year, and realizing that it was entirely possible for me to walk through those halls every day for the better part of four years and see a new face every single one of those days. It was shoulder to shoulder, each seat filled, trailers-outside-for-the-classrooms-that-couldn’t-fit crowded. Two years in, I was careening towards a D-average and a psychotic breakdown. The teachers were every bit as demoralized as the students – there was no point in remembering our names. At the end of the day, we were papers to grade and grades to average. It was like being on a conveyor belt.
After my sophomore year, with my future prospects grim if not nonexistent, my parents, at this point desperate, turned to alternative education. I was enrolled in a small environmental-progressive school in the next town over, called the Howard Gardener School. I went from a graduating class of over 500 to about twelve – students and teachers were on a first-name basis, class sizes rarely exceeded eight, and students were directly involved in what classes were offered and how they were taught. Every week we had field trips and personalized work experience. We were a community, a family, and I don’t like to dwell on what would have happened to me if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to breathe, grow, and thrive that I had in those two years.
I came to Chester College because it was immediately apparent to me, just from browsing the website as an anxious senior looking to apply, that it was like my high school in college form: small, accepting, community-oriented, and blessedly eccentric. So many of my classmates came to Chester from high school situations like my first one, and it is incredible for me to observe how they – forgive the cliché – blossom into strong, independent, confident people. With the opportunities that Chester College provides, they are free to reinvent themselves, to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their craft alongside others who match their passion blow for blow.
I was lucky. I was so, so lucky to escape my first situation and find something better. Few people have the same good fortune and I am thankful every day that I was allowed that blessing. To see others, my peers and friends, who went through so much more than I did, come to Chester and experience that same relief of finally, finally, finally reaching sanctuary – finding something to hold on to – finding the family they never even knew they were missing – it would be cruel, simply cruel to take that from them, and from the hopeful future students of Chester College of New England.
This is our home. I am not the first one to say it, because I am not the first to feel this way. We belong here, we belong with each other, and I intend that statement to encompass faculty, staff, and administration. To say that we have no passion for this school, for our craft, or for one another would be an absolute lie. This school is worth saving, because it has saved so many people since its inception. And it should continue to be here for those who need it in years to come.
In the fall of 2010 I found myself in a dilemma. I was a junior film major at Fitchburg State College studying the production techniques of cinema and on my way to a job in the film industry. This was the place I needed to be in order to fulfill my dream of becoming a filmmaker. Despite all this, I was severely depressed. It was something about the college itself, a combination of the decaying city, the intense competition of the program, and the focus on technical proficiency before artistry. I felt like I was being trained to be a drone in the industry and not a forward thinking filmmaker. After two and a half years this depression had reached its apex, I had to get out.
My only idea was to transfer to Emerson. Emerson is located in Boston right on the commons, it’s a beautiful area of the city. Besides NYU, Emerson has one of the best film programs on the east coast. However, I knew that the aspects I disliked like about Fitchburg would be multiplied ten fold. As a transfer student from New Hampshire I would be lost in a sea of pre-formed cliques at the hip college and within the city itself. One October night while laying in my bed, I remembered driving past Chester College and how friendly and inviting it looked nestled in the woods close to my home. I applied that night on a whim.
The next day I got a response asking for an interview. I went on tours. I met the professors and faculty. They seemed honestly interested in my work, my ideas, and what I had to say. All this attention had a profound impact on me, so much so that when I received my long awaited acceptance letter to Emerson it garnered a mere laugh from me. That was the first I had heard from them since I submitted my application. I had already made up my mind anyway; I was going to Chester College of New England.
I could not be happier with my decision. I can say with all honesty that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been while attending Chester College. My enjoyment of school is unparalleled to how I felt at Fitchburg taking classes in my preferred field of study. This positive atmosphere caused my grades to shoot up in all courses. I’ve looked forward to every class I’ve taken, from art history to graphic design, literature to photography. That last one, photography, I’ve enjoyed so much I decided to stay an extra year in order to complete a double concentration in both photo and video. Even though I’m able to graduate before the school closes, I’m deeply saddened by not havingthe chanceto return to Chester for one more year to study photography.
At the heart of all my enthusiasm for Chester College is the incredible professors. As an artist, I’m indebted to them not only as mentors, but as friends. I’ve had a variety of rich experiences outside the classroom thanks to them. Rachelle Beaudoin, Melissa Boyajian, and Elizabeth Buckley have always encouraged my exploration outside the boundaries of their courses. I began acting on stage, even in a regional competition, thanks to John Sefel and Marie Brown. I’ve traveled to NYC museums with Nanette Thrush, attended photo exhibits and film screenings (and the occasional concert) with Edward Stapel. I’ve studied abroad in Italy and Hawaii, won a national student photography contest, and matured as an artist under the guidance of Darrell Matsumoto. I’ve even been collaborating with professors outside my department recently making an internet video series titled In Place with Christopher Anderson and Jenn Monroe for their literature blog Extract(s). On top of all this I’ve had the chance to meet, talk, and have worked critiqued by high profile artists and writers like Nick Flynn, Gaye Chan, and Luther Price among others. This all has accumulated with recently finishing a short film for my senior project, a work that I’m incredibly proud of.
The opportunity to interact one on one with such passionate professors and students creates a sense of unity that is non-existent at larger schools. The closing of Chester College will not only be a closing of a school, but of a community.
I think the first time I had even heard of Chester was the beginning of my senior year of high school in 2010. To say I was intimidated by the idea of searching for colleges and being on my own would be a severe understatement. I mean, I wanted to go to college, I just didn’t want to have to pick some place and stick with it.
I’ve always been terribly indecisive by nature so when my best friend approached me saying, “Hey I found this beautiful old school with stained glass windows and a converted old barn! You have to come see it!”, honestly I didn’t know how to react, but just seeing a school wouldn’t mean much right?
Well that was both wrong, and an understatement.
I believe I went on 4 tours of Chester before I received my acceptance letter and gosh, was that a sigh of relief! I had become quite fond of the little place, it was so much like home to me after-all, coming from a small town in the “burb’s” of a bigger city. What helped even more was that my friend had also become committed to attend at Chester.
It was like some kind of dream. Chester just walked right into my lap with the perfect set up. Even if I was on my own, I really wasn’t because at least I’d know someone; and I knew really all I wanted was a place where I could find people who would become something special to me. In leaving my town for the first time, it almost felt as though I was giving up the work I had put into making friends there, however I know now that was not the case at all.
I was scared, just like any other teenager going through a big change. More so I was scared, when come February my friend announced to me that due to financial problems she would be attending her second choice school. I was going to be on my own, and really alone this time.
It was a big leap for me, but I had made my decision, and more so than that, after seeing Chester I really didn’t even want to look at other schools. For once I had made up my mind, and when I set my mind to something it happens.
To say my first semester at Chester was tough would be the understatement of the century. To paraphrase something a friend of mine told me yesterday, “It almost broke me,” but the key statement in that sentence is ALMOST. It was a hard first year, being away from home and dealign with some difficult people at the point in my life.
But you know what got me through it?
When I knew I was finally going to be in the clear at the end of my first semester I was intensely relieved. My teachers made me strive for improvement and my classes called for understanding and effort. I couldn’t just be lazy anymore and get away with it. But more than that, I WANTED TO GET BETTER. I wanted to improve my art. I wanted to practice. I wanted my writing to be critiqued so that I could improve it.
I wanted to try harder to improve.
It was Chester that made those feelings happen. It was the community that got me through that rough first semester and it was the new people I had become friends with and the classes that made me WANT to learn that gave me the push I needed to get my act into gear.
In high school I was too indecisive, to lazy, and to relaxed about my life. I let things come to me instead of working for them.
That has changed, and its because of what I have found in Chester College.
And now, for once I have made a decision.
I want to STAY at Chester, and so you know what?
I’M GONNA BE PART OF THE COMMUNITY THAT MAKES THAT HAPPEN!
I first visited Chester College when I was 13. I came with my brother when he was on a tour, and I fell in love with the campus then and there. Even as an 8th grader who didn’t know anything about high school, let alone college, I could tell that Chester was special. The small and intimate size, the visibly tight nit community, the homie feel of the buildings and town, everything just made me want to go here.
At the time I thought it could never be because I had less artistic talent than a peanut. Senior year of high school, I went through a Major change from Music Education to Graphic Design…(I know random, and a very long story) and I was thrilled that that meant I would be able to try to go to Chester. I was beyond thrilled when I got my acceptance letter.
I hate to admit it, but I came to Chester College not knowing anything about Graphic Design. I knew some InDesign and a little Photoshop, but nothing near as much as several of my fellow GD majors. As a second semester Freshman, I am amazed how much I have learned. Just in the first semester alone, I learned how to proficiently use 3 Adobe programs that I didn’t even know existed the day before college started. I also very quickly developed a slight eye for design that I don’t think I had last year.
Not only have I learned things about my major here, but also about myself. The faculty, staff, and students accept me for who I am. For 12 years prior, I had to hide elements of myself from the public, even those who I considered my closest friends because they weren’t accepted at my school. I came here and was able to flourish.
I have never been more excited about the possibilities I have ahead of me. I’m already thinking of careers I would love, like working as a layout editor for a newspaper, or working at Pixar.
Chester College has changed my life and outlook in less than 10 months. I can’t even imagine what can happen in 4 years.
I can not picture myself anywhere else right now.
I am a twenty-two year-old Latino student at Chester College. I have been at this school for going on four years. I am a Creative-Writing major with a passion for a mixture of words combined into sentences and the smell of new books. Writing is my passion–the one thing I do that I can hold on to and say that I am proud of.
Coming from an inner-city high school in San Francisco, Chester College of New England offered me a place to sit and find my voice through the power of boot-camp style writing workshops and critiques. The writing professors at Chester encouraged me to read the classics, write every day, and find my voice through the power of honesty. I am not the same writer I was when I came in 2008. For that, I am grateful.
Chester College is my second home–it opened its doors to me when others stopped believing in me. I appreciate its judge-free environment, its low student-to-faculty ratio, and the heart that the students have shown in the past couple of days to stick together and save the school. It is important to fight to keep its doors open because society needs art. Without art, especially writing, people wouldn’t have another escape, or someone to relate to, or something to analyze and love. Or to simply enjoy on a cold, rainy night.
…And to lose it all due to financial crisis is heartbreaking. That is why we are doing everything humanly possible to SAVE CHESTER COLLEGE–that’s how much we believe in ART.