Big fish, small pond, perfect home

by Savannah Christian

Just a few short months ago, Sara Cushing and her mother, Gail Chandler, headed out of the Metroplex toward Texas A&M University-Commerce in search of a fresh start. Little did they know the mother-daughter duo would find more than a change of universities and a brighter future in Commerce, they would find a home for Sara.

Sara had started her college years at the University of Texas, but felt lost in crowded lecture halls and classes with hundreds of other peers. Sara found the bureaucracy difficult to navigate when she sought tutoring help and tried unsuccessfully to change majors.

“I was in classes with more than 500 other students,” Sara said. “I have test anxiety, and when other students are finishing tests all around you and getting up and leaving, it becomes hard to focus. I tried to get help, but felt like no one would even pay attention to me.”

After a couple of difficult semesters, Sara left UT to take classes at a community college with a goal of transferring elsewhere. Gail knew business and education leaders in Dallas who recommended A&M-Commerce and suggested to Sara that it might be what she needed to help her succeed.

“I emailed Randy [Jolly] who set us up with Dr. Mary Hendrix,” Gail said. “When we came to visit, it was the first day that classes for the semester were starting, but it really was a case of ‘if you want to be in school, we will make it happen.’ That was just awesome.”

After speaking with Dr. Hendrix, vice president for student access and success, learning about the services the One Stop Shop provides for students, touring the campus, and speaking with an academic advisor, both Sara and Gail knew they had found a fit.

“As a parent, I just couldn’t believe how great it was,” Gail said. “It was like everything just fell into place. Literally,
by 6 p.m. we were headed back to Dallas, trying to pack
and get her back to Commerce in time for her class at 9 a.m. the next morning.”

Even though she could easily commute from home to Commerce, Sara wanted to be a part of her school. Her mother agreed.

“She needed to truly be in school, and the One Stop Shop made it easy,” Gail said. “She had really been looking for someone to give her a second chance, and that is what A&M-Commerce has done for her.”

Sara is currently finishing her first semester as a Lion, and said she has found happiness, something that also brings joy to her mother.

“I like living here, being a part of the school and having my place,” Sara said. “Unity is definitely a big thing here. It is a strong campus, and everybody works together. They are willing to teach you and give you their time. Instead of just being a number, I feel like a part of this world.”