First-Time Attendee Experience at RMASFAA: Expedition 406 Billings, MT

Caridad Trudy Bargamento, Financial Aid Counselor @ Utah Valley University

Attending the RMASFAA conference has strengthen my personal resolve when assisting students to reach their potential at Utah Valley University. Our conference keynote speaker, Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, talk left an indelible mark on my heart and mind! Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, bio stated she will forever be an island girl. She was born in Trinidad, West Indies and raised on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  She shared how her mother worked several jobs to ensure she and her brother were able to attend a private school. She was an intelligent girl, but she shared she was angry inside and fought in school constantly. In her life’s journey there were two significant people outside of her family who were instrumental her finishing high school and later graduating from college. One was her JROTC instructor that provided her with a purpose in high school and let her know she could go to college. Then in college while struggling in her math class and lack of support and not knowing what to do, a janitor took the time to talk to her about her not attending her math class. That janitor made the difference in her college life.

Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, made this statement during the beginning of her talk, “You Were Born For Greatness!”  There were stigmas in her life and she could have let them control her life, but she learned she was better than those stigmas and overcame them. She learned how to fight for something purposeful.

In her closing remarks, she shared the word “ENHANCE” … “How Will You INTENTIOANLLY Grow Greatness?”

As I sat and listed to her, I realized how much our lives were somewhat similar. I too am an island girl, that grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii. Aa young girl, I faced many educational and prejudicial obstacles at my elementary and middle school. Like Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein I had a mother that worked long hours to provide a better future for me and her expectation of me going to college never wavered. As a little girl, then as a young woman, my life goal was always to get a college education. My life choices initially prevented me from attaining that goal.  However, forty-four years after starting my college degree, while working for the University of Maryland University College Europe in Germany I was able to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree.

In closing, Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, shared her personal story with us, then asked us, “What is your story?” I nodded and smiled to myself, because as I work with students daily and they ask me on how they can receive a scholarship, I always say share your story! Your story is your essay, it is your way of conveying, sharing who you are! I have this quote on my office credenza that says, “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what within us. Emerson.” I let students know, they should not let what lies behind them or the uncertainty of their future to define who they can become! I share with students what lies within them is what that matters! Everyone has a story to share!

Attending this RMASFAA Conference, participating in the sessions, meeting other professionals who care about their chosen profession and most importantly after hearing Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, going forward I know I am on the right path! When students share their sorrow of not having that caring support, I become their biggest supporter, just like the JROTC leader and the janitor in Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein life. I let them know to come back always, I am here for them!

I look forward to other opportunities with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the future to share my passion for education with the diverse student population at UVU, students struggling to find their way!! I know without a shadow of doubt that with Exceptional Care, Exceptional Accountability, there is no reason not to have Exceptional Results, EXCEPTIONAL GREATNESS!!

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