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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

It chose me

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(1/2015) I get it a lot. That same old question asked by yet another person, "Why did you choose the Mount?" And though itís been three years, I still have difficulty figuring out where to begin my answer.

It usually starts with a sigh as I try to determine if I should give whoever is asking a short answer or begin to talk endlessly in hopes of explaining it all. "Well you see," I normally start out by saying, "It wasnít my original plan." Although Iím not sure if I ever really had an original plan to begin with. Quite honestly, I didnít give college much thought. I knew that I planned on going to college but I was so focused on working at the preschool I loved and getting good grades that I really did not look into colleges that much. I fully relied on the hopes that whatever was supposed to happen would happen. It wasnít until the spring of my senior year in high school rolled around that I realized that everyone else knew what they were going to be doing in the fall and I was still undecided. I wasnít sure what I wanted or what I was going to do. While I started to look into colleges more seriously, my email inbox constantly seemed full from messages from one college or another. Yet, one school stood outówhich one you ask? Of course, it was the Mount.

Those capital letters in the subject line reading "Itís not too late to apply!" convinced me and I submitted my application to Mount St. Mary's University. Within a week or so I visited the campus and I finally knew where I was going to be enrolling in the fall. When August came around I was moving in and nervously about to embark on my pre-orientation Mountward Bound experience. I had no idea what the Mount had in store for me and that both excited and terrified me.

It didnít take long for me to realize that the Mount was offering me the world. That seems like an extreme claim but it was true. The Mount gave me so many opportunities to grow, both as a student and as a member of the greater community. Although I struggled with the transition from a large, public high school to a small, private college, the challenge helped me grow and discover more about my passions and about myself.

The Mount introduced me to so many experiences and ideas that I had never been exposed to before. I quickly found my niche in the Office of Social Justice on campus. The Office of Social Justice offers weekday, weekend, and weekly service experiences combined with an educational aspect related to a current or past social justice issue in connection to the service. The office has its own student leadership development program called CORE. I was lucky enough to join CORE my freshman year and it has been the single most important decision that I have ever made. That is a bold claim, isnít it? But it couldnít be more true.

The Office of Social Justice and CORE have pushed me to learn more about my community and my world. Never before had I been conscious of things such as the importance of inclusion in relation to people with disabilities, the difference that fair trade makes in the lives of workers, and the vastly spread food insecurity that exists not just in other countries but within our own nation.

CORE has given me the world because it has forced me to acknowledge so many aspects of society that I never knew existed. This leadership development program has challenged me to question the way that I think and act in all that I do. It has propelled me to become an advocate of social justice and of change.

The Office of Social Justice has introduced me to so many amazing people. The other student leaders in the CORE program are my family at the Mount. They are some of the most beautiful people that I have ever met and are solely driven by their passions. These students inspire me daily to be all that I can be and to always seek to help others flourish in their lives.

The Office of Social Justice has also given me a chance to meet many people within the community who have all added to my life in one way or another. Throughout various training experiences and events on campus I have had the pleasure of getting to know Ms. T, a woman who has experienced homelessness multiple times in her life. Yet, through all the challenges she has faced, she continues to see the light and the beauty in life. She is focused on giving all she has to others while learning more about herself in the process. Ms. Tís advice, which applies to everyone but especially to college students, is to find your lane and to own it. That is, to find what you love so deeply and embrace it and use it to shape your future.

I have also had the pleasure to meet some of the residents at the Frederick County Rescue Mission. I remember specifically leaving one afternoon after having helped serve lunch and Damien, a resident, turned to me and said, "Enjoy and be joy. Your smile impacts all who see it." This simple phrase has stuck with me and it has become a motto I try to live by. In all things, even those situations that are difficult, we should try our best to enjoy it. What good can come of a negative attitude? Being positive and radiating joy impacts everyone and this simple notion of positivity can create widespread impact.

While helping to serve the Harrisburg community at the Silence of Mary Home, I have gotten to know the founder of the organization, Ms. Sue. Ms. Sue is single handedly the most selfless and beautiful woman that I have ever met. She constantly gives everything she has to others. She does not have a concept of "mine," but rather lives her life sharing and giving everything to anyone in need. Being in the presence of Ms. Sue is like being in the presence of a saint. She has impacted so many lives through her deep faith and her endless compassion.

I am so thankful to the Mount for giving me the opportunity to experience the love and passion that emanates from the people within the community. I wasnít sure why I ended up at the Mount my freshman year, but as I continue to grow it becomes more clear that it was because the Mount had so much to teach me and I had so much to learn. And so my answer to that question of why I choose the Mount is complexly simple. I didnít. It chose me, and I am so grateful that it did.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen