Coming from one of the largest cities in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Iron Mountain, Olyvea Galeazzi, a first-generation college student, anticipated it would take a few weeks for her professors to get to know her. After all, the number of students on campus in Mount Pleasant is more than the population of her entire hometown.
“I was walking to work the second week of class. My English 101 professor, Dr. Elizabeth Brockman, said ‘Hi, Olyvea’ as we passed on the sidewalk. She made an effort to know me by face and by name; there was a connection in that moment. I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew Dr. Brockman wants to see me get ahead and was going to be there every step of the way.”
Brockman invited Olyvea and her classmates to stay in touch through emails and to drop in without an appointment during office hours. “Dr. Brockman became like my family in how she helped support me.”
Olyvea plans to become an elementary education teacher and teach in the Upper Peninsula — or perhaps trade in her snow boots for sandals and move to Florida, where she has extended family. She aspires to lead a classroom that’s a safe space where students have fun, learn and feel supported inside and outside the classroom.
“Even when things got hard my freshman year, I kept pushing myself. I learned some life lessons and matured. I learned it’s OK to not understand something, and I have all the help I need here to succeed.”
One of those life lessons was learned in a math class her freshman year. She struggled and hesitated to ask for help. At the end of the semester, she failed the class. She found solace from Lori Driessnack, her academic advisor.
Lori got to work. She found Olyvea the same class that would fit into her schedule. Olyvea learned if you retake a class, the old grade is erased and replaced with the new one. And this time, Olyvea is pulling out all the stops to make sure the outcome is better, talking to her professor after class if something isn’t clear and utilizing the Mathematics Assistance Center.
“I know I can do this,” she says. “I have always told myself that if I want it, I can achieve it.”
Olyvea has grown so much that she’s proud of who she’s become and where she’s from. And she knows that she has all the support she needs.
“My parents have expectations for me. My family has even higher expectations for me because no one has graduated from college. I have to graduate. I have to be the first one to get the job I’ve always wanted.”