Ciara Ward of South Bend, Indiana, knew she’d receive a great education from Saint Mary’s College. But she couldn’t have predicted the personal growth she’s experienced in just two years.
“When I first came here, I was extremely shy and did not like the way I spoke. I stumbled over my words, especially when I was nervous,” says Ciara, a social work major. “Now I have learned to be more confident in my speaking and I have overcome some of my timidity. I’m more open and share my opinions.
“Saint Mary’s is the perfect place for a girl to grow into a woman. You not only get the chance to learn, but you also get life experience as well.”
For Ciara, that life experience includes participating in extra-curricular activities such as Read-to-a-Child and the College Academy of Tutoring (CAT). “The CAT program was the most meaningful because I got to work with many different types of students and it seems as if I was making a difference to most of them,” she says.
Many faculty members at Saint Mary’s have made a difference in Ciara’s collegiate career, especially Diane Fox, director of the Office for Student Success. The office works with students to help them develop confidence, motivation, and academic skills and strategies. “Whenever I need help with anything, Diane is the one I go to,” Ciara says. “She always goes the extra mile for me.”
Like more than 90 percent of all Saint Mary’s students, Ciara receives financial aid. In addition to receiving three scholarships, Ciara has also helped finance her education by working in the College library since her first year.
Grateful for her own opportunities to grow, Ciara wants to help others find theirs.
“I want to be a social worker because I want to make a difference in people's lives,” she says. “I want to give them opportunities that they did not think were possible. What’s most appealing about being a social worker is the goal of striving for social justice and having the ability to empower people. It’s amazing to me.”
In addition to pursuing a degree with the College’s accredited social work program, Ciara will complete a minor in gerontology and would like to work with senior citizens in the future. “They have the most positive spirit any person can ask for,” she says. “I also love hearing when older adults talk about and tell stories of their lives; it is always so interesting.”
She is certain her experiences at Saint Mary’s are preparing her for success outside school. “The people at Saint Mary’s are open-minded and kind,” she says. “Saint Mary’s has opened a lot doors for me and has given me the chance to be more open and welcoming to new situations and people. I have met people who have truly changed my life for the better and I know once I leave Saint Mary’s, I will have the opportunity to do the same for many others.”
She’s Got Heart
Sophomore Symone Pompey is batting a thousand at Saint Mary’s. She is part of the varsity Belles softball team pitching line-up. She’s got ten years of playing softball under her belt and her love for the sport has continued to grow at Saint Mary’s.
Long-time family friend and mentor, Julie Schroeder-Biek '88, Saint Mary’s director of athletics and recreation, convinced Symone to apply to the College. Symone was glad she took Schroder-Biek’s advice. “I don’t know if I would have been this happy and successful at any other school,” she says.
At Saint Mary’s, Symone has mastered the art of balancing athletics and academics. She sacrifices a lot of her free time for softball, but says it’s worth it to play the sport she loves and to be part of the Belles team. Through the hard work and extensive practice schedule, Symone says, “[the players] have developed friendships that extend well beyond the softball field.”
As a social work major and minor in sociology, the Cassopolis, Mich., native is a well-rounded student-athlete. When she’s not studying or practicing, Symone makes time for service work. She volunteers with Living Alternatives for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD), the local YWCA, and tutors children at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School and Parish. “I love learning about individuals from different walks of life,” she says, and her volunteer work has allowed her to do just that.
After graduation, Symone’s dream is to attend the Military Social Work and Veteran Services Program at the University of South Carolina. From there, she plans to work with soldiers returning home from war. With friends in the Military, Symone is particularly attuned to the experiences of servicemen and women. “It upsets me to think that men and women who put their lives on the line for this country may not receive services necessary to help them cope with life at home,” she says. Symone plans to help provide resources for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
For Symone, the key to choosing a fulfilling career path was finding something she is passionate about and diving in. “When you can find something that can make you feel [passionate], that is when you have found what you are called to do,” she says.