Phyllis Mandler & Gary Elden Point Scholar Cara Cerise Reflects on Her Final Semester of College

Cara_Cerise

2010 Phyllis Mandler & Gary Elden Point Scholar Cara Cerise

My final semester as an undergrad has felt similar to how I imagine running a marathon feels, especially over the last several weeks.  Some days have left me completely out of breath and exhausted, while others have been filled with energy and excitement.  In any case, I always knew perseverance was the key to success and that the finish line was waiting for me just a few miles away.

LA Regional Leadership Forum

LA Regional Leadership Forum

Ever since I attended the Regional Leadership Forum in L.A. in early March, I have literally been running non-stop.  Upon my return from a sunny and absolutely perfect weekend with my Point family, I was forced to hibernate in my apartment (for almost an entire month) in order to finish writing my sociology senior thesis.  Luckily, after countless hours of writing, editing, and revising, my isolation and hard work finally paid off.  My project entitled, “One Step at a Time: Ritual and Community on the Camino de Santiago” was selected to be featured in my college’s annual Undergraduate Research Fair.  It was a real honor and privilege to participate in this event since only a handful of projects from each department are nominated and sponsored by a faculty member each year.

In addition to completing my senior thesis and tackling the workload from all of my other courses, I had the pleasure of presenting one of my Spanish projects at Texas Tech University’s Annual Graduate Student Conference on Latin American and Iberian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.  As one of only two undergraduate students in attendance, I was especially excited to be sharing my work so far away from home.  I have enjoyed seeing my Spanish skills improve enormously over the last few years—going from being a student in Spanish IV as a freshman, to presenting at graduate-level conferences as a senior, has been a very fulfilling process.

Speaking at conferences and writing a thesis for both my sociology and Spanish majors have been huge highlights of my academic year, yet, the most exciting event occurred in early May when I made my final tuition payment to Westminster College.  When I turned in my last check at the cashier’s desk, I unexpectedly started jumping up and down and tears of joy began streaming down my face.  The person who took my check smiled at me and said, “Congratulations.”  I was completely ecstatic because this moment was the true culmination of everything I’ve worked so hard for.  This would not have been possible without the incredible amount of support from the Point Foundation and the funders of my Named Scholarship, Phyllis Mandler and Gary Elden, as well as my mentor Kim Hackford-Peer, a Point Regent and Alumna.  Although this is only one of many finish lines to come,  I can’t say thank you enough to Point for encouraging me to keep ‘running.’  This moment will mark my life forever.

Point Scholar Cara Cerise with her Mentor and Board Regent Kim Hackford-Peer

Cara’s graduation party with her mentor Kim Hackford-Peer and Kim’s sons Riley and Casey

This post was written by Cara Cerise
Cara was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah and has a strong passion and commitment to activism. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Spanish from Westminster College, Cara plans to work directly with the queer community and other marginalized populations in order to connect them with the resources, support, and opportunities they need in order to succeed.  Learn more about Cara.