Tell your story: college students share their experience

Four days before she started her freshman year, Reauna Stiff got some of the worst news of her life. Her father was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer.

“My father passed away in the second semester. Through all the hardship I pushed on, knowing that he would want me to succeed. I changed my major many times, had trouble reaching out to make friends and continued to have the normal daily college student struggles on top of everything else.”

Stiff started off college in a way that most students never have to. Here she is four years later at the Storytelling About College event telling the audience how she survived.

Stiff along with several others told their stories about surviving life-changing events along with the daily hassles of college on Monday in the Centennial Student Union Ballroom. 

Stiff, now a senior, is Minnesota State University’s Student Government President. While that may seem very successful, Stiff described her journey as a humble beginning. She also came from a small town and was the first in her family to go to college, and she had no idea what she was doing. 

Stiff learned about her father’s illness the day before moving to college. She told the story of her struggles and how she got through it. 

“If you think about all the times that you’ve thought about transferring or dropping out of school,” Stiff said, “just imagine how much more the temptation was for me to drop out and be with my dad.”

Stiff said that when she first thought about becoming a senator, many of the people she once called her friends had told her that she wouldn’t be able to succeed. 

“At that point I needed to prove it to myself and to them that I could,” Stiff stated. 

In the end all her hard work paid off. 

“I eventually did become a senator and then later got asked to be the student body president. I did that by learning how to silence other people’s voices that put me down and even my own voice that discouraged me,” Stiff explained. 

“After everything I realized I was stronger than I ever thought I could be. I never thought I could pick myself up after what happened, much less continue going to college and become successful by chasing my dreams.” 

Freshman Georgia Blair said she was impressed by Stiff and the other speakers at the event. 

“Coming from a very small town it was really cool to hear these stories of people who are going through the same issues as me. A lot of people don’t talk about the big struggles of college,” Blair commented.

“These people came out about their struggles in front of all these people but it was nice to see that all of them in the end ended up exactly where they were meant to be. Knowing that my struggle will be a journey but that hopefully it will be worth it in the end. I was impacted most by Reauna Stiff.”

When Stiff was asked one thing that she wished she could have told her younger self and that she wished to tell others, her answer was simple: “Just stay motivated and stay focused. If you do that for your four years here you could become and do so much. I want everyone to know that you belong and have a place here.”

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