Purposeful Lives

Katelyn T., sophomore, education and psychology
Katelyn T.
With my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventurous heart, my best friend, Maddie, and I had decided to take a trip up to see her grandma in Beaumont.

We first stopped to watch the sunrise on the beach, and then took a nap in her Jeep before continuing on our journey. I was driving us home when all of a sudden an overwhelming feeling came over me and I began to cry. My friend asked me what was wrong and through the tears I replied, “I just don’t think I could ever work with special needs kids. I just don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I have it in me.”

As a student who is double majoring in elementary education and psychology, Schreiner has given me the opportunity to complete some observation hours in both the “regular education” classrooms and the “special education” classroom. In my hours in the special education classrooms, I worked very little with younger children who had needs I was not accustomed to helping with. After my short experience in this classroom, I felt like I was useless to children with special needs because I simply did not know how to help them. What was worse was that I wasn’t sure that they could be helped. This thought of mine broke my heart because I knew that if a person like me didn’t believe in them then it would be hypocritical of me to trust that anyone else should.

After discussing all of this with my best friend, I realized it was something that was just going to take time to come to terms with. Never in my life had I felt it difficult to believe in someone else the way that I felt when it came to these children. We continued on down the interstate and arrived back at the dorms before I knew it.

The next week I found myself desperately searching for a summer job. With no luck that day, I caught myself sitting at the back of a late afternoon class asking God to help me find a job. I prayed and prayed and told God that if he helped me find a single one, I’d take it without hesitation. Moments later my IDST  professor Micah Wrase, turned to me during a group’s presentation and asked me if I was looking for a summer job. I was astonished! After reading my face of excitement, he told me to talk to him after class. I waited to have his sole attention and he began to inform me about this job, “…you’d just be tutoring a young boy, about 9 years old. He just needs someone to play with and teach him how to not be a sore loser, and maybe take him out to do things every now and then.”

This job description fit me perfectly. I could not have felt more blessed in that moment. God had answered a prayer and I kindly and overexcitedly accepted the offer. While handing me the information I would need to contact the mother of this child, he pulled back and said, “There is one little thing though, he has autism.” Those words weighed heavy on my heart as I felt it sink down into my stomach. It wasn’t but a few days before that I had cried to my best friend telling her that I didn’t believe I was cut out to work with children with special needs. I quickly reminded myself of the promise I’d made to God, and without too much hesitation, I took the information and called the mother the next day.

I knew from the very first meeting I had with little Nicholas that my heart would never be the same. I knew that his smile was forever engraved in my memory as the moment that I was changed forever. After working with Nicholas for more than a few months, I thought I knew what autism was. I wouldn’t have called myself an expert, but I felt intelligent when it came to the subject. Then, I was given another opportunity by my special education class at Schreiner. I was assigned to the autistic unit at a different elementary school.

I walked into this classroom and the same feeling came over me that I had felt on that interstate a few months prior, but something was very different this time. Nicholas, who is an extremely highly-functioning child with autism, gave me a reason to believe in these children. He was the reason for my immediate change of pace in this new environment. This unit held a very different piece of the autism spectrum, but nonetheless they were tiny human beings who just needed someone who was willing to have patience and was giving of love. Because I knew Nicholas, I knew love. This isn’t to say that I never knew love before, but knowing Nicholas means knowing a genuine love which I found in the moment that his mother took one of our very first pictures together.

Nicholas had just gotten off the school bus about half an hour before I had arrived to his house. We sat together on the curb and I asked, “How was your day, little one?” His reply is one I’ll never forget because of the love I heard in his voice, “Great, now that you’re here!” The little smile that grew on his face is one I’ll never forget. I leaned over and hugged him and his mother snapped a picture of an unforgettable moment in my life.  

I remember carving on a rock at my house my dreams for my future. I wrote “2012” the year I expected to graduate from Harper High School, “dreamer” since my heart was full of dreams, “elementary teacher” due to the fact that is my life’s goal, and “Schreiner University” because I knew that’s where I wanted to spend four years finding myself. Schreiner has given me countless opportunities— opportunities I am sure I never would have had if I had decided to go to any other university. I’ve been able to be a faith leader to a high school group for a weekend at Mo Ranch. As the president of the Association of Texas Professional Educator’s chapter at Schreiner, I was able to help lead our group in volunteering with a booth for Fright Night— a community gathering for the children to come have fun, get candy, and do it in a safe environment. I’ve been able to attend a work trip to help feed the hungry in San Antonio which broadened my understanding of the needs of this world. I’ve been given a huge opportunity through the Hatton Sumners Foundation that has expanded my understanding of politics and our government. I have met many inspirational people through the foundation, my favorite being Dr. Ben Carson— a neurosurgeon who has been credited with pioneering the first separation of twins who were conjoined at the head.

Each experience I’ve been given by Schreiner University has helped me to become a more diverse, understanding and compassionate individual. I could never begin to repay the university or the people who have helped me be who I am and where I am today because I am just not sure where I would begin.

Schreiner has been written on my heart, and I will forever be thankful for the wisdom God granted me when he helped me choose Schreiner as my choice of higher education.