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GC's Student Speaker for Commencement:

Garrett was the best 'unplanned' decision ever

Kalynn Eyler did not want to go to college. Growing up, she did not consider herself to be a "good student", let alone college material. Although a native of Garrett County, Eyler and her mother relocated out of the area when she was seven years old. They moved around a lot, spending time in New Jersey and parts of Carroll County, Md. She attended public school until halfway through sophomore year before being homeschooled.

She attempted a semester at a local community college and decided it was not for her, reaffirming in her mind that she wasn't college material. Beauty school lasted a day. In 2016, Eyler and her mother returned home to Garrett County.

Eyler was a very involved student, which as a commuter student, she explained this led to her success and enhanced her overall college experience. She served as president of the Alpha Omicron Phi Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK).

PTK serves to recognize and encourage the academic achievement of two-year college students and provide opportunities for individual growth and development through honors, leadership, and service programming.

This same Kalynn is preparing to address her fellow classmates as this year's chosen student speaker at Garrett College's 46th annual commencement ceremony scheduled for May 19th. Entering the spring semester with a 3.8 cumulative grade-point average, Eyler is on track to graduate with honors. She is also a member of the prestigious Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society - the official honor society for all two-year colleges.

"I still wonder myself, how did this happen?" Eyler said. "The best way to describe it is that when I came to Garrett College, a switch flipped. This happened one course at a time. I came two days before the semester started, took placement testing, and jumped right in. It was the best unplanned adventure ever."

That's not to say that she didn't experience any struggles along the way. The journey wasn't always easy.

"I quickly discovered that for me to serve humanity and fulfill my purpose in the way that I hope to, furthering my education is a path I must take," Eyler explained.

Dr. Terry Kasecamp, a professor of psychology who has both advised and taught Eyler, said her love of learning makes Eyler a particularly engaged student.

"What is particularly striking about Kalynn is her innate curiosity and that she enjoys learning for the sake of learning. She loves knowledge," said Kasecamp. "The depth of Kalynn's introspection and ability to apply what she is learning for the purpose of personal growth is extremely impressive. "

Her path will continue with opportunities to experience new challenges and experiences. Eyler has been accepted to West Virginia University this fall where she will complete her education to earn not one bachelor's of science degree, but two: psychology and social work. Her goal is to continue her education to obtain her master's degree and ultimately a doctoral degree.

According to Dr. Qing Yuan, Dean of Academic Affairs, the faculty selected Eyler as this year's student speaker both because of her academic accomplishments and character.

"Kalynn is very deserving to receive the honor of being selected as this year's student speaker for commencement," stated Yuan. "She is a high achiever, leader, and an excellent role model for our students. We congratulate her on her many accomplishments and wish her the best in her future endeavors."

"Garrett has prepared me for more than I could have ever asked for. It led me to my purpose and prepared me to take the next step," said Eyler. "I went from not wanting to go to college, to wanting to go as far as I possibly can. Because of the outstanding faculty and support system, I fell in love with learning."

Eyler also explained that as a commuter student, being an involved student led to her success, which at the same time enhanced her overall college experience. She also served as president of the Alpha Omicron Phi Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) and vice-president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Garrett College student chapter, enabling her to participate in numerous community service projects.

As vice-president of the newly-formed American Association of University Women (AAUW) student chapter, she was instrumental recruiting new members, participating in all meetings, and planning activities along with community service projects.

"When I plugged into various organizations such as PTK and AAUW my journey at GC became more meaningful," she said. "I became a part of something that connected me to the core of what this college is about. PTK and AAUW helped me to discover valuable traits, such as being a leader and serving the community through acts of service or through standing up against gender inequality."

Eyler was instrumental in the formation of Garrett College's new student chapter of AAUW, which included meeting several times through the summer to write and submit the constitution for this organization, actively recruiting new members and participating in all meetings and planned activities.

Kasecamp stated, "Kalynn's generosity of spirit, genuine sensitivity to human struggle and concern for humanity will make her an asset in the field of psychology and a leader for AAUW's mission to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy and education."

As her love for learning continued to blossom, Eyler had no idea where this new-found passion would take her. She definitely did not anticipate it would take her outside the country.

One of her professors, Michelle Lieberman, encouraged her to take a "leap of faith" and broaden her horizons a bit further – a study abroad trip to Nicaragua. Eyler also received a study abroad scholarship through the Garrett College Foundation.

"Kalynn was a true leader and role model on the study abroad trip. She is an amazing student and person," stated Lieberman, an associate professor of sociology/criminal justice. "There is not a time I have not seen Kalynn go out of her way to help another person in need. Garrett College is lucky to have had such a brilliant, active, and determined student."

As her love for learning continued, Eyler was encouraged to broaden her horizons and participate in a study abroad trip to Nicaragua. Eyler received a scholarship through the Garrett College Foundation.

Eyler said the study abroad experience was transformational.

"As part of Ms. Lieberman's cultural diversity class, one of our assignments was to interview three natives of Nicaragua and write about them," recalled Eyler. "In doing so, I realized I have this gift of education, and that's exactly what they want. From that moment on, I began to appreciate my experiences more and I could feel myself becoming more independent."

In addition to Nicaragua, she attended more than one school trip to New York.

Along with other members of her class, she was provided with an opportunity to see first-hand several historical sites related to both the women's rights movement and the abolition of slavery. "Kalynn was actively engaged in two whirlwind trips to New York. Her delightful personality and enthusiasm for life made the long trip on the bus a joy. She has a knack for uplifting others!" said Kasecamp.

"Through these out-of-class activities I have gained an understanding and appreciation for culture and diversity. I've learned that going beyond the classroom is a powerful influence that enhanced my education times 10," said Eyler. "The college's motto is 'experience, explore, and excel'. Through these various activities I have done just that!"

Although it is beginning to feel bittersweet, Eyler is already anticipating the next step of her journey and considering one or two summer classes at WVU.

"It is with joy that I can say this has been the best experience in my life thus far," she said.

"I am thankful to Garrett College for a positive college experience, or I wouldn't be where I am today. GC gave me the hope, encouragement, and strength that I needed to acknowledge that my purpose is great," Eyler said. "It is because of faculty, staff, and administration that I have been led to the right path."

Asked about her message to her fellow graduates, Eyler said it would be, "I hope that each of you know how much worth you have and that you are proud because you are changing the world, even if it is only being accomplished one person at a time. One of my favorite quotes reads as follows, 'What if I fall? Oh my, darling, but what if you fly?' Always believe that you will fly."