As told to Nick Schalitz
As soon as the teacher’s voice began to drone through the confines of the classroom, my ambition took over. She was describing an identity book, and it was something I had never heard of. The concept seemed simple enough right away. I was required to define myself and my identity through life goals, and the book also had to include a letter from my family.
As driven as I was (and still am), the goals were a piece of cake to define. I had the first goal pop into my mind instantaneously. For the entirety of high school, I had been determined to graduate high school with a 4.0 GPA. The dedication required for a 4.0 characterized my personality flawlessly. I had the intelligence to do well in class, but I was also capable of applying myself and putting forth the effort required as well. I also knew I yearned for the Columbus campus of Ohio State University. A big city like Columbus was filled with opportunities, and that thought led me directly to my next goal. I had already decided I would be a small business owner; I just needed to put myself in the correct situation. Although I loved my home in Perrysburg, the quickly growing suburb of Toledo was not going to provide me with the opportunities of Columbus. 140 miles away, I could escape the 4H signs, corn fields, and quaint neighborhoods. I wasn’t entirely sure what I would base my business around, but I knew I would change lives. The next goal simply followed in line; I would take as many business classes in high school as I could.
Naturally, I was proud of all the soul searching I had done to create this identity book. I discussed with my mom, could see her eyes fall when I mentioned Ohio State, and understood that she wanted the best for me. Looking back, her master plan and quite possibly God’s master plan began as soon as my mom knew I had an identity book.
As Easter of my sophomore year of high school approached, my immediate family was preparing for our yearly trip to my grandparents’ house. With our previous conversation in mind, my mom asked me to bring my identity book along. I was a little coy about it, but naturally agreed to my mother’s suggestion. I knew everyone would be there, and I was most excited to talk with my Aunt. A successful and driven woman herself, I was positive she would be thrilled to hear I was planning on going to a school as prestigious as Ohio State and had ambitions to start my own business.
When Easter arrived, I was absolutely animated. I could feel the energy and the anticipation I had. Once I had explained everything to everyone, my aunt and I began a separate conversation. Expecting to hear a talk about starting business and the prestige of Ohio State, I instead heard my aunt ask if I had ever considered pharmacy school. I’m certain the shock on my face had to be visible; there was absolutely no way I could’ve concealed the surprise that hit me due to that statement. She told me I had the personality for pharmacy; I literally had no clue what that meant. Also, there was zero chance I could ever get over my horrific fear of blood. How could I embark on a career that I couldn’t even stomach? Yet, in a strange way, she had me considering it. My aunt, this wonderful woman, thought I had the perfect personality for pharmacy. I had to consider it on her behalf, so I essentially filed it away for another date. Easter passed, and my high school experience sped on.
High school continued, and as it turned out, “as many business classes in high school as I could” resulted in a single business class. It was a college-based, dual credit course, and was going to give me the experience of what my education at Ohio State would be like. Unfortunately, I was 140 miles from Columbus. That meant I was enrolled in a course at Bowling Green State University, not OSU. In that white-washed, stale, and awkwardly cold room, my first experiences with business were formed. The harsh, artificial lighting didn’t do much to foster my immense creative ability, but the talk of entrepreneurship and business tactics sure did. I huddled up under a warm coat, poured myself into business, and mostly forgot about my identity book.
As time passed, my intentions shifted. I had thought that I knew what I needed in life. I made plans. I was going to do what I wanted. And in one moment, the most important change in my life occurred. My aunt had given everyone else in my life a window with which they began to nudge more towards what I needed, not what I wanted. My mom immediately knew that pharmacy school was what I was meant for. I most definitely did not know it, but she kept on me. Constant hints persisted throughout the passing time; she made it clear that I would have her support regardless of what I chose, but it was also clear what decision she preferred. By the time college visits appeared on my horizon, I had been converted. My mother had convinced me how amazing she thought I would be as pharmacist, and it meant the world to me. If someone else could believe in my intelligence the way she did, I should as well. My shortlist of schools included nothing but pharmacy schools; I was all in.
My visit to my dream school, Ohio State, was less than spectacular. I don’t recall a single mention of academics, and that was what mattered to me now. Sure, Columbus was full of diversity and excitement, but pharmacy school was my focus now. I was fully dedicated, and I needed my university to be as well. Fortunately for Ohio State, my desire to attend was so ingrained that I actually overlooked the negatives. It was so atypical of me, of my personality, and of everything I had done to this point. My mom, however, was not as willing to overlook the shortcomings. In yet another moment that changed me, one that I also was not responsible for, my mother found Ohio Northern. In a simple google search, a new school had been added to my list. I was less than thrilled about college in a corn field, but I decided to visit anyways. Over spring break of my junior year, I toured ONU for arts and sciences. The pharmacy school was booked, so I decided that I would just look around campus and learn a little bit.
Once again, someone other than me made a decision that changed my life. Dean Alstedder, head of the College of Arts and Sciences, ensured that I would get my tour of the pharmacy college. The tour was exactly what I needed. ONU was as dedicated as I was, and I knew right away that I needed this family environment. Everyone there was on my team and there was no way I could find that level support anywhere else. There were trees everywhere, and campus flowed so easily. At every other school, I wasn’t even granted facetime with the Dean of a college. At ONU, I met two in one day. With that level of contact, I knew would get the same amount of effort back that I poured in. The tour made my decision for me, and I had to be at ONU.
Unfortunately, my story doesn’t end there. Time diminished the effect that ONU had on my decision, and I started to lean towards Ohio State yet again. My mother implored me to reconsider my decision, but there was little one woman could do. I applied to OSU, got accepted, paid my deposit, and enrolled at OSU. My mind was made up, and I was going to do what I wanted. My mom was supportive, but she worried. I was a genuine and grounded individual; she knew that I didn’t fit in Columbus. I needed community, but I didn’t know it.
Over the course of my senior year, I began attending church. On January 13 of 2013, I was in a senior leadership meeting at Cedar Creek, which was my church. Everything changed yet again. I made the decision to dedicate myself to Christ, and life began to revolve around what I needed, not what I wanted. My interview for acceptance into ONU’s pharmacy school came around, and I got a refresher of what it meant to be a part of the community in a corn field. I was starting to sway towards ONU, but the a single visit was not enough to fully change my mind. Everything in my life was pointing me towards ONU, but I wanted Ohio State.
As they always do, my senior year of high school flew by. I was already enrolled at Ohio State, and I wasn’t thinking about the decision much. This horrible pit remained in my stomach, but Ohio State was what I wanted. I kept telling myself that college was about what I wanted, and that was how my decision was made. Yet, at the same time, I just couldn’t shake the dread of making the wrong decision. In the 11th hour, my mind changed. God, my mother, and the community of ONU had broken through. I enrolled at Ohio Northern one week before the deadline, and I haven’t looked back since.
Within my first few weeks on campus, I joined Fusion, which is a campus religious life group. Centered around student-led worship, I was drawn in immediately. In an instance, everything made sense. I was in the right place, and I knew it. I could feel I was in the right location; ONU created this warmth in my heart that felt like a familiar place right away.
Now as P4, or fourth year pharmacy student, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I will graduate from this place with a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences, and I will be able to impact countless lives through medicine and counseling. My effort has always been matched by my university, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
This story originally appeared in Facing Our Futures Beyond High School, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.