By Stevi Kay Berry, OTC Class of 2022
In the spring of 2020, the pandemic altered the course of my life forever. I begrudgingly enrolled here at Ozarks Technical Community College. After being told by nearly everyone that community college meant giving up on myself, my success and my dreams – something I’m sure we’ve all been told once or twice – I had never considered it to be an option for me. Standing here two years later, I’m grateful this is the option I took.
I have always been the type of person to have a plan, and a back-up plan and a back-up-back-up plan. I was on track to attend a four-year, out-of-state university. But when I graduated from high school in May 2020, we were starting to really see how the pandemic hurt our community – financially, physically, emotionally. I was not prepared for what the pandemic threw our way. I realized that none of my plans were viable.
So I came to OTC. When I started here in the fall of 2020, I sadly had accepted that my best bet was to not make waves, that I could do no more than those who had come before me. In all honesty, I didn’t really have a dream. But I could not have been more wrong about attending this community college. It may not have been my first choice, but it was most definitely the smart choice.
At OTC, I found a community. People didn’t ask me when I was graduating or what I was doing next. Instead, I heard “How are you doing?” “What do you need to be more successful?” “What’s going on in your life, is there something you need to talk about?” When my laptop broke mid-semester, OTC helped me replace it. When I was struggling in my courses, my professors were just an email away. I always felt there was someone in my corner who wanted me to succeed. And not because it would raise their national ranking or so they can ask me for a donation in 10 years. They genuinely viewed me as a person, not a student number.
The constant care at OTC pushed me out of my comfort zone, to get engaged on campus, invest in my future and care about my academics. OTC gave me the opportunity to afford my education while also furthering myself personally and professionally. The community resources OTC makes available helped me appreciate Springfield more. The opportunities to lead on campus gave me skills and a deeper understanding and appreciation for leadership, teamwork and growth.
As I near my graduation, I’ve come to know that OTC was the place I was meant to be. I see a future without debt and the freedom that comes with that. I see value in my community that I had never understood before. But most of all, I see my future. Bigger than normal, and bigger than myself. I have a desire to make history and improve my community and, better yet, a self-love that I never thought possible just two years ago.
It has been said that something’s value can be measured by what you get out of it. If that’s true, the time I have spent at OTC has been invaluable. Not only did I receive an education — for free — but when I thought my dream was lost, the people of OTC had a plan that gave me the courage to dream again.