Amanda's excitement for her future is contagious. Perhaps it is her high positivity, the joy she feels at being a recent college graduate, or simply her engagement in working a job she loves. After spending just a few moments with Amanda, her excitement for living is evident.
It is hard to believe that just a few years ago Amanda was stuck and lost in her academic pursuits. After graduating a semester behind her high school class, Amanda enrolled in a local community college, but quickly became disengaged and dropped out. "I just wasn't connected," she reflects. "I was in a program that wasn't a fit for me, and really no one on campus seemed to care about what would be best for me and my future." After giving up on academics, she took a variety of positions in retail and fast food as her hope for the future faded.
Five years later, Amanda's younger sister enrolled in college. Amanda knew she needed to get back on track, but wasn't sure how. As she began to explore other colleges throughout Michigan, positive student reviews led her more than 40 miles from home to Kalamazoo Valley Community College. "My experience at Valley was completely different," Amanda explains, "it seemed like they really wanted me to be successful."
She attributes her positive experience at KVCC to learning about the Gallup StrengthsQuest program in one of her courses. StrengthsQuest is a developmental process that uses the CliftonStrengths assessment, an online survey that helps a person uncover and apply their natural talent to achieve success in academics, work, and life. "My first reaction after taking strengths was, 'Wow, that makes me sound a lot cooler than I really am,'" laughs Amanda, "but after reflecting on the results, I realized these traits really were true of me, but they were things that I had never [seen] as being positive before taking the assessment."
Amanda's personal growth through using StrengthsQuest in her courses eventually led her to take a job as a Student Strengths Ambassador through KVCC's Student Success Center. Amanda's job on campus is to meet with fellow students about their CliftonStrengths results and help them connect their talents with college and life success. The role is a great fit for Amanda, as she is able to share much of her engagement and enthusiasm with KVCC with fellow students to help them be successful.
A major focus of the Student Success Center is the department of Student Strengths Development who, through their partnership with Gallup, help students discover, develop, and apply their talents to help in their academic pursuits. KVCC's Student Success Center has posted impressive results, including a notably higher retention rate for students who used services offered through the center.
It was through a series of strengths conversations that Amanda found hope. She met her mentor and developed a vision for her future; to pursue a master's degree and work within Student Affairs. When Amanda, who is now a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, crossed the stage at KVCC this past December, she took a big step toward her future. Amanda is currently finishing her bachelor's degree at Western Michigan University, which has a campus that is just down the street from KVCC and will allow her to stay on staff in Valley's Student Success Center.
From college dropout to graduate with honors, Amanda's story is an example of what happens when students find hope for the future and discover and apply their strengths on campus. In the words of Amanda, "I can't imagine being where I am today without strengths; it is a game changer."
Kyle Robinson's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Strategic, Communication, Learner and Achiever.