|Year of Entry: 1987
||Age at Entry: 14
||Hometown: Berkley Springs, West Virginia
PEG Is Part Of My Life Story
Some feelings never go away. Even now, 20 years after I graduated from MBC, I still feel a shyness rise in me when the topic of high school and college comes up with someone new. As the conversation swings in my direction, I brace myself once again for the looks, the questions that shoot back when I say it.
I went to college when I was 14.
“What? How did you do that?”
“You must be some kind of genius.”
“I never could have done that!”
I used to hate that moment. Now I take care to own it. That fact — that I went to PEG after 9th grade, and graduated from college when I was 18 — is as much a part of my life story as the fact that I am now the mother of two sons, or a wife, or a writer, or that my family vacations every summer at the Delaware shore. It’s just a fact. What other people make of it isn’t really my business. What I’ve made of it is my business.
The Revelation Of PEG
PEG was a revelation to me. Sitting in my junior high classes, I was increasingly frustrated that our limited time was usually spent reviewing something I’d already read or waiting for the teacher to discipline one of my spit-wad-throwing peers. I wanted to learn more about everything — civics, history, literature, woodworking, art. But over and over again, my questions yielded the same response from teachers: “We’ll get to that later.”
At PEG, I could get to it now.
My curiosity was a plus, not a minus. My peers were just as interested in learning as I was. Most seemed smarter than me, which was intimidating but also cool. There was room to strive and chase knowledge, and no one seemed bothered that I wanted to read for hours and talk about international relations the way some teens wanted to talk about pop stars.
In a word, coming to PEG was a relief.
I could be the person I really was. I didn’t have to temper my intensity or intelligence or curiosity out of fear of social rejection. I could use the full extent of my vocabulary, and expect to be understood. I could seek out as much learning as I wanted, pester my professors for more, and they were happy to give it.
Because I was part of the third class of PEG, we were rather new and untested on campus. The college had done a good job of selling the idea to its faculty, but some professors were unsure what they were getting with a bunch of teenagers invading their classes, it seemed. Luckily, I made connections with several extraordinarily generous faculty members. They were professors who made me feel welcome and fed my hunger for more and more knowledge.
My advisor, Professor Gordon Bowen, wasn’t fazed at all by my visits to his office or my litany of questions in class. He encouraged me to take as many classes as I felt I could handle in whatever subjects caught my attention. His own passion for international human rights fueled my learning and laid a foundation that I draw on still. Dr. Jane Pietrowski made economics exciting and welcomed many of the PEG students in her class and into her office, like a home away from home.
Even though I was a political science major, I took an inordinate number of English courses – mainly because of Dr. Joe Garrison. His demanding teaching style and his deep love of language were the very epitome of my education at MBC. Back in high school, I could easily provide the right answer for questions posed by my teachers, since most of it was simple review of information. In Dr. Garrison’s class, I rarely had the right answer. And if I did, he always followed up with another, more challenging question. In him, I had met my match when it came to intellectual curiosity. Even as he was closing in on the last decade of a 40-year teaching career, Dr. Garrison always wanted to know more and to dig deeper. He enjoyed teaching any student who wanted to join him in the endeavor.
More To Be Written
These key faculty members and others around campus were a treasure I kept discovering. Even then, as a teenager, I was amazed that these talented experts were at my disposal whenever I wanted to know something or talk about a subject in depth. That was an extraordinary gift, and one for which I am increasingly grateful.
In the end, the experience of attending MBC as a PEG was a very specific one. At the time I graduated, there were less than 20 PEG students who had completed the whole program and walked across the stage to receive a degree from MBC. While there weren’t many of us, the bonds among us were like steel. These were the women who had taken the same leap I had, who had worked as hard as I had and shared the same non-traditional college experience. Now there are many more women in that group, and I’m so pleased to share that experience with them, even if I haven’t met most of them.
They know that feeling when the subject of high school and college comes up with someone new. They stop for a moment and wonder how someone will react when they share their story. But hopefully they remember, as I do, that this is just part of our story. And there’s still a lot more to be written.