Posts Tagged Seanna Leath

R. Kelly had it Right!

seanna-85Last summer, I found love and excitement amidst 90+ kids in a youth program that focused on high achieving first-generation, low income students who wanted and deserved to attend college after graduating high school.  My heart’s still with the program, but this summer, I’m one of those kids…and my focus is graduate school.  I was accepted as a McNair Scholar student through Claremont Graduate University, so I’ve been taking classes and preparing for my GRE for the past four weeks.  I’ll be doing research on the influence of stereotype threat among African-American female college students, and I actually took the GRE this afternoon (one more thing off my plate)! 

This past week had its ups and downs as I anxiously awaited another standardized test that would be influential for my future.  Words that I’d never seen before, like peccadillo and burnish, were on the verbal section…and the math questions weren’t hard but DANG you’ll pick the wrong answer if you don’t pay attention!  In the middle of the week, I found out that an OBSA Staff member will be leaving the school because he was accepted into graduate school.  Although it made my own ambitions more of a reality, I was really shaken up that night.  This graduate-school prep program has seriously made me start thinking about the next step.  Where will I be two years from now?  My blogging days will be over for CSO, but hopefully I’ll still be able to give back in other ways!

When I look back on my days at Pomona, I know the overall experience will have been amazing.  The professors…students…classmates…I’ll never find another atmosphere where there are so many creative and brilliant personalities in one place.  I’ve learned so much about myself in my time here, and truly found a direction that I’d like to head in the future.  However, the years have sped by and I know the next two will be even faster; hence, one of the reasons behind my sadness over hearing that the Staff member was leaving.  He’d been a part of my campus experience since I started at Pomona…and he’ll no longer be here to praise me for my grades or provide encouragement when exam times near.  He reminded me that change happens, even when we aren’t ready for it.  This program has made me consider my future, and acknowledge that it’s already upon me.  In addition to balancing school work and personal time, I also have to maintain thinking about five years from now, while also appreciating every moment of each day.

Enjoy the people in your life and moments that you share.  Never get so caught up in thoughts of tomorrow that you forget about today…but also…never feel so lost or drowned in present adversity that you lose sight of future aspirations.  When things get rough, I tell myself… “This too shall pass”…and when I catch myself thinking about months and years down the line, I tell myself… “Slow down, you’ll never get to relive today.”

This summer has been a time of reflection and hard work.  I’m finding out more about who I am, what I’d like to pursue in upcoming years, and how to successfully achieve those goals.  Whatever you may be doing this summer…whether it’s working or relaxing or traveling all over the world…keep in mind that things are about to change very soon…school starts up in the fall, and since you can’t turn back the hands of time…make every moment worth it!

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
Gail Sheehy

Tadpoles in the Sea

seanna-85I got my first camera when I was around twelve, but I’d been fascinated with photography and “capturing life” long before unwrapping that Kodak Easy Share.  My mom threatened to stop making Walgreens’ trips to develop the photos if I didn’t stop snapping shots of trees, dirt, spiders, and the left side of her nose.  I loved taking the ordinary and flip-flopping it every which way until it couldn’t be recognized.   Change interested me.  Variation caught my eye.  Transformations were absolutely captivating.

Sophomore year flashed by.  There was actually very little that remained similar to my first year, besides the best friend.  Classes and professors were different (obviously), the friend circle widened and fluctuated, the clubs & organizations that I was involved in narrowed and solidified.  This was my Round 2, and because I’d managed to firmly plant my feet during Round 1, I was able to look beyond myself and take more notice of the Pomona community.  I started critically thinking about campus climate & diversity, problems that impede residential life, and adjustments that might help facilitate improvements for future years.  But back to the idea of transformations.  Butterflies seem too cliché, so let’s assume that I’m in the process of becoming a frog.  Last year, I was a larvae.  I managed to overcome the dangers of bigger fish, sickness, and weather catastrophes (also known as bad grades, homesickness, and earthquakes), and I made it to tadpole stage. 

As a tadpole, I helped mentor larvae throughout the year, serving as a resource during confusion or hard times.  I learned more about our environment (lake or Pomona…wherever you’d like to go with this analogy) in order to answer questions and help avoid disasters.  I monitored my behaviors, while still being myself, to help set a positive and thriving example.  As junior year approaches, I’m moving into the awkward pre-frog, huge-tadpole phase.  I’m one of the Head Sponsors for the Pomona College Sponsor Program (first-year academic & mentor support program), and I’ll have an entire group of larvae & tadpoles in my building.   Together, we’ll set a tone and establish a smaller residential community that will aim towards having an exciting, safe, and productive year.  Looking back, this year has helped me realize how much college is truly about new experiences & change.  Every year, a group of frogs leave & a horde of larvae arrive.  Each class has its own personality just as each academic year is drastically unique, and yet, the four years will accrue into “MY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE”.  Whether you end up a butterfly, frog, newt, or crustacean, this metamorphosis is life-altering.  Pay attention to the details and appreciate the people and opportunities that happen your way. 

I can drive myself to Walgreens now, and I’ve moved on to a Nikon Digital Camera, but nature still astounds me and I still prefer a little switching up every now and then.  And just to keep the tradition, I send Mama images of snails and lizards through picture messages. 

Change is the essence of life.  Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”—Unknown

Dying my Hair for the World

seanna-85There are motorcycles and vacation spots and hair dye for mid-life crises, but manufacturers and travel agents failed to make an outlet for mid-college crises. I looked on Amazon and eBay to no avail. There wasn’t a thing to help the sleepless nights, worried days, and seemingly endless weeks.

Surprisingly, this crisis has been shadowing me for years, hovering over my shoulder and springing up during certain moments of passion, anger, and sadness. Passion, because I’ve realized one of my main goals in life…something that’ll have me jumping out of bed in the morning and “working” happily until past sundown at night. Anger, because I realize that I’ll fall short of this goal if I don’t hone it down. Sadness, because I hate the thought of leaving anyone behind. My goal is simple. I want to save the world.

Now, you may assume that you understand the sleepless nights & worried days & dragging weeks, but the connection to my college experience may not be clear. While every school has faults, every good school also has a powerhouse of strengths. Pomona has an above 90% acceptance rate post-grad into medical, law, and graduate school. Over 50% of our student body travels abroad, and we’ve graduated individuals who work for Wall Street, own businesses, and have started their own corporations. The dining halls have a variety of food, and we serve the coolest plate of cheeses and fruit at special events. We have special foreign language housing, Gold-rated environmental buildings, and small professor-to-student ratios. But those are only the logistics, the nice things that we list on our admissions brochure and tell people during campus tours. Here’s how the school has managed to mess me up.

Pomona College offers so many opportunities to broaden your understanding of the world and reach beyond yourself that you’ll begin or be further incited to extend compassion to others. Involvement in campus events, talks, and programs puts you in danger of having a personal transformation that’ll rock your boat and open your eyes. Mama always told me that I have a good heart, but some of these classes and programs have strengthened and inflamed my mind and soul.

For those of you who haven’t thought about it yet, saving the world is quite a task. Very time and energy consuming, lacks a clear beginning, middle, or end…is seemingly…impossible. But “giving up” isn’t an option either, so what to do…what to do…

Enter—mid-college crisis. I’d like to wrap up this blog, but I can’t end with this dilemma just sitting mid-page, so let me end with this: three or four years ago, I helped others on a regular basis, but I was also highly focused on helping myself get where I wanted to go…college. When I arrived, my focus shifted and I wanted more than anything to be successful and return for sophomore year. My junior year is approaching and I’m thankfully situated at Pomona. I’ll be back next year, and in May 2013, I’ll walk across that stage and graduate. The opportunities here have blessed me in that I don’t have to worry as much about my future. I’m connected with amazing faculty, involved in summer programs, as well as initiated preparation for graduate school. I can think about the question, “So what?” So what will I do with this degree… who will I serve…how will I save the world?

My response: I’m not sure right now. And that’s okay, because I’m more than sure that I will be helping SOMEONE and most likely, a whole lot of someone’s. And I will put my effort and energy into a worthwhile cause, whether that’s through teaching, mentoring, or a combination of both. I’ve started sleeping at night again. I dream about the big picture of everything I want to do, and when I wake up, I’m thankful for the day at hand…and I focus on what I can do…in that day. Some days are still worried, but only because the weeks aren’t endless & I start to wonder…will I have enough time?

So, thank you, Pomona College, for giving me more courage to strive. And thank you, readers & bloggers & change-makers, for helping me sleep at night. I realized that I don’t need to worry about “enough time” because amazing students and people, like you, will be working for change after me, continuing to do good and helping others.

Handy Dandy…PLANNER!

seanna-85                Last week in Neuropsychology, my professor was explaining the short and long term effects of stress on the body.  The hypo-something interacts with the adrenal-something-else and cortisol a.k.a the stress hormone, is released in the body.  Short-term, stress can help you get through the all-night cramming session with that test you procrastinated for…it’ll help you finish that 5-mile marathon run that involved a mildly twisted ankle at the 2-mile mark…heck, it may even get you through final week four papers, two tests, and one final project later.  HOWEVER, after that test…after that run…and after final week, the prolonged influence of stress will often lead to a temporary immune system collapse, maybe a little bulge build-up, and most definitely, a bout of over-exhaustion. 

                In conclusion…STRESS is not good for the body, and yet, college students find themselves routinely anxious, running from one class to the next activity, squeezing in food and showers when time allows it…FORGETTING repeatedly to take that “me-time” for recuperation. 

                Enter…the planner…a well-structured, pre-organized, time-charted, life-saving strategy for stress management.  Sophomore year, I’ve been able to pull my planner from my bag more often than a stick of gum or lip gloss.  My fingerprints are permanently engraved on the front cover, but it has helped immensely with my ability to look at my entire week, prioritize to-do tasks, and SCHEDULE IN relaxation/party/”me” time.  Every year of college involves a new onslaught of activities and obligations that’ll fill the time.  Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them, even including the class assignments and study groups with friends.  This year, I’ve found myself learning to say “no” to some things…over-commitment is a sworn enemy of balance. 

                This week alone, I have a mid-term on Tuesday, commentary due on Thursday, four meetings, gym time, 16 hours of classes, two seminars to attend, over 300 pages of reading, and preparation/study time for next week.  But guess what I’ll be doing from 10-11:30 PM three nights this week?  I’m open to suggestions, but they can’t include ANYTHING that takes focus away from me taking time for myself.

Phantom Limb

seanna-85Imagine sitting at the kitchen table every night, head bent over bills, trying to make pennies stretch into places where dollar bills are necessary…

…Working fifty hours a week behind a desk, then returning to work five more hours each night, cooking…cleaning…ironing…reviewing eighth grade Math, English & Science…

…Walking in circles for a few hours…lost & disoriented…unsure of where you are, where you were going, and where you are now supposed to be…

…Your hand being unable to open that ketchup bottle…water bottle…jar of jelly…too weak to twist off that “easy-open” cap…

…Inserting shots into your stomach every two weeks to maintain consciousness, trying to find a spot that isn’t too sore from the last shot & isn’t too tough from the 60+ shots that came before…


You’re imagining my mom.


Imagine running from the bus to your house, running from bullies who grab you right before you make it to the door, throw down your bag and jump you…

…Sitting in class every day, frustrated by the endless numbers and words that jump out from the lifeless pages of your textbook, your uncertainty developing into embarrassment…

…Waiting for hours for your father to show up with that game he promised, only to find out that he wasn’t able to stretch his check that far…maybe next month…

…Burning inside with energy and anger that you can’t explain, can’t contain, and can’t shake…emotions that need to find their way out, but remain trapped inside…

…Struggling with teenage thoughts, hormones, & doubts…trying to find your way in a world where kids are cruel, teachers don’t listen, and Mom is on her own & stressed…


You’re imagining my little brother.


Imagine loving the opportunities that are presented at your college, embracing the friends, classes, teachers & new activities…

…Waking up each day with your own agenda, going to sleep at night with a list of things “To-Do” the next day…all seeming as urgent & important as yesterday’s…

…Being thankful that you’ve been blessed with so much, financial aid, Office of Black Student Affairs, mentors…knowledge…

…Picking up the phone to hear about how hectic your mom’s day has been…why your brother got suspended yet again, and how the car broke down on the interstate…AGAIN…

…Knowing that you can’t be there to beat up those bullies, iron his shirt, or open that ketchup bottle…

…Imagine 1,794 miles…


Now, you’re imagining me.


Growing up, I was my mom’s right hand.  I helped her before she realized she needed assistance.  I played with my brother, relishing in my role as his sister.  The six years between us made me more like a second mother than a big sister.  When I decided to go to school so far away from home, leaving family behind was the hardest decision.  I was still only a phone call away, but I was also $600 and at least 7 hours from home. 

My advice to those of you who are considering college out-of-state: GO FOR IT.  Weigh your options carefully, but the next four years of your life will be a time of growth, change, and adjustment.  Although I did get homesick my first year, and I hate hearing about the problems my brother & mom go through, I wouldn’t trade my experience at Pomona for anywhere else.  Learning to balance my life away from home with the one I had before & will have after graduation has helped me learn how to stay in contact with those that I care about & vice versa. 

You don’t lose your family or close friends by moving outside state lines.  In fact, those who are most important will remain with you, even if the communication style changes.  It also helps that my mom and brother are fully supportive of my decision, and that other students at school, including my best friend, traveled far from home, as well.  There will be up’s and down’s, but I know that looking back, I will appreciate the risk I took & the sacrifices that everyone dear to me made for these four years.  

I text my mom every morning & tell her good night, every evening…so even though I am not there physically, I’m still her right hand…and I’m still willing to go above and beyond as her daughter & as Thurm’s big sister…

“The distance is nothing…it is only the first step that is difficult…” (Madame Marie du Deffand)

Gunned down by Cupid

seanna-85This is a love story.  The happy ending hasn’t occurred yet, but we’re in the middle of the honeymoon stage.  A few fights have occurred, but we’ve managed to overcome the issues & have positive expectations for the future.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to express my adoration for Pomona College in a paragraphed poem…before you start reading…let me warn you.  This love declaration does not rhyme. 

Choices—College is an overabundance of choices.  Oftentimes, students may find themselves in trouble for the types of choices they make.  Although you have to attend school or receive education until you’re 18 or graduate from 12th grade, college isn’t mandated by law.  You choose to succeed.  Every class you attend, every assignment you turn in, every party, event, or club that you’re involved in…will primarily be your choice.  I’d tell you to make only the best choices, but then I might set you up for later guilt…a few mistakes won’t jeopardize your experience…just make sure you choose the “right” ones to make…

Classes—Hopefully, you’ll attend a school with classes that spark your creativity, challenge your thinking, and provide healthy frustration.  Pomona boasts great classes and faculty with PhD’s and vast student involvement with research, but I didn’t understand the significance of having such great professors & course material until I was attending as a student.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I have classes that make me groan and I’ve taken a few that I was overjoyed to be done with…but the GREAT definitely outweighs the bad.  College is about academic growth…classes are an integral component of that academic facilitation.  So even if you took Basket Weaving in high school to earn that “A”, step outside that comfort zone in college…

Involvement—As mentioned before, college is full of choices.  You can get involved in a variety of activities…or…you can opt out of campus or service-related involvement.  Personally, I love to remain active, often, overwhelmingly so.  One great thing about my college is that there are so many options available that allow me to get involved in exactly the ways that I’d like.  I’m interested in educational improvement & success.  There are so many mentoring and tutoring programs at the school that I’ve had to limit my scope…but that’s an AMAZING thing to be able to say.  This also applies to student-run organizations and other activities around campus.  With every event that I choose to attend…there’s something else that I’m missing…

My Bed—With all that running around, between choices and classes and extracurricular involvement, I’m often exhausted by the end of the week.  Scratch that, I’m tired every night by the time I make it back to my room.  This has developed into a new love for my bed.  If you get to college & have the urge to go and go and go (similar to the Energizer Bunny), make sure that you allocate time to recharge your batteries.  Running on an empty tank is dangerous for your health, as well as your outlook on your experience.  Between you and me, sometimes I even hug my bed (we’re just that close).


Go Green with Renewable Resources!

 1.2 million dollars.  The amount reverberated through the arena amid thunderous claps and cheers.  Our high school principal had just announced the approximate amount of accepted scholarship money that my 2009 class had procured for college.  Graduation night was one to remember…walking across the stage, shaking the important people’s hands in the correct order, successfully stepping my way back down the stairs and marching steadily to resettle into my seat.  That night, everyone who graduated was invincible…all of us about to embark on a journey of growth, education, and limitless opportunity.

                Now, only one year later, a group of these same peers are back at home, no longer in college, but instead, saving money to pay back small loans & accumulate enough to return.  Although financial aid is not meant to be tricky or confusing…READ THE FINE PRINT.  Many of my friends received scholarships that were non-renewable, meaning that after the first year, that source of income was no longer viable.  Most college costs increase by a little each year; therefore, it may cost $22,000 to attend your first year, but $24,000 for the second year.  Do you have that gap $2,000 covered?  As you consider the schools that accept you & pick out that perfect place for you…make sure you have a firm understanding of their financial aid policies.  Pomona is amazing in that it meets 100% of demonstrated need for all students.  Now, while some students do not “demonstrate need”, my first-generation, low-income self surely did!  Not only do they meet 100% demonstrated need each year, they do so with a no-loan, all scholarship & grant policy.  Therefore, I’ll graduate in four years without owing money to the school. 

                Although this is far down the road for many of you, graduate schools, including law & medical schools, cost “a grip” (a large amount).  Aiming for an undergraduate school that won’t break your bank (or your parents) and leave you with a huge amount to pay back after graduation can be a major blessing.  As you start the financial aid process, call the school if you have any questions.  Read the brochures they send, research the costs each year & anticipate money for books and extra expenses.  College is not cheap, but it’s an investment in the future that’ll pay you back with interest.  Just make sure your ducks are in a row early on, so you aren’t caught by surprise after that amazing first-year experience!

Changing majors

seanna-85CSO Opportunity Scholarship blogger and Pomona College sophomore Seanna Leath discusses how changing majors in college is normal.

Check out her video here!

Where’d the Roses Go?

seanna-85Last year around this time, I wrote about my application process & how nerve-wracking it was to wait for the decisions to arrive in the mail.  This year, I still remember the anxiety, but it’s slightly harder to write about.  Although this is only my second year at college, senior thesis & graduation already seems to be on the horizon, fast approaching.  As the semesters at Pomona speed by, I’m now starting to think about what I’ll be doing after May 2013.  I’m starting to think about yet another cycle of applications.  Graduate school.

The fact that I feel like I’ve just entered undergraduate, and will soon be on my way, has made me reflect & appreciate my remaining time at the college more.  Soon, I won’t be thinking about snack at 10:30 PM, classes with my best friend the next semester, or room draw for the next year.  Although it may seem that I’m getting ahead of myself, when you find the right fit at a college, the roses don’t ask if you’d like to smell them.  You aren’t given many chances to stop, and lingering moments pass before you realize they’re gone.

My advice…as you fretfully wait for decisions to return, or finish up regular decision applications, live in the present moment.  Undergrad life will arrive soon enough, but you won’t be able to relive past years.  During high school, one of the main things that I focused on was “getting to college”, as though it was an end point.  Now, I realize that it was yet another stepping stone, a temporary period in my life that’s meant to allow me to explore, discover, and challenge myself.  Once you’ve done all you can do to make those applications great, take a step back and appreciate the blessings in your life now.

Don’t let yesterday or tomorrow use up too much of today.  ~Cherokee Indian Proverb