Dedication comes in many forms. For senior Machen Olson, it comes in the form of sleepless nights, long hours, multiple jobs and a desire to earn her degree to create a better life for her and her son.
Olson will soon graduate with a degree in secondary education and a minor in English literature. She works multiple jobs while attending Newman and is a member of Alpha Chi Gamma Chapter on campus and serves as the region’s student representative.
Her desire to be involved in more than just her courses is obvious. She has very little spare time to dedicate to Alpha Chi Gamma but continues to take on board and committee responsibilities, check and respond to emails for the organization, work as the administrator of the organization’s Facebook page answering questions, leading conversations and much more.
The High Plains Region of Alpha Chi Gamma is more distanced than most so Olson works hard to bridge that gap and form relationships with members. She even created a virtual open mic night for students.
Olson serves as the voice of her region but is highly involved in the organization as a whole, creating written and video blogs and completing assigned readings.
On top of her Alpha Chi Gamma responsibilities, she works two jobs equaling 60-hour workweeks, is a full-time student and a full-time mother. She works as a patient safety attendant for Phoenix Home Care and Hospice and is contracted to Wesley Hospital.
She spent several years attending Butler Community College, and after a visit from a former education expert at Newman University, decided to pursue a teaching degree.
“I was determined to attend Newman. Even though I was not Catholic, I believed that Newman was the right choice for me,” she said.
In order to gain experience in the field of teaching, Olson picked up a part-time job with USD 259 as an AVID tutor. She has been a tutor for three years and has become an advocate for the program.
“I stand by it, support it and want desperately to promote the good it does for students. As a tutor, my job requirements are to help facilitate small group tutorials and presentations, grade the TRF’s (tutorial request form) and grade the students’ binders. Being a tutor is more than that. It is much like a teacher; I am an educator. I build relationships with these students, care for them, guide them and many times I comfort them,” she said.
She stays in contact with many of her previous students and is always willing to help them with assignments or general life questions.
“These AVID students confirmed for me that being an educator was more than just a career choice for the future, but I whole-heartedly believe that it is my calling. I feel the most joy, comfort and satisfaction when I am in the classroom teaching and guiding my students,” said Olson.
She began her own education journey on rocky ground after being misinformed by an educator on requirements but was thankful to finally sort out the issues and get into the education program at Newman University.
“Dr. Max Frazier was just the start of many amazing professors that have helped mold me into the person I am today. I was hesitant and worried about how I would fit in at Newman given that I was not Catholic, I was in my 30s and not only was I a parent but also a single mom of an autistic preteen. I am not going to lie or sugarcoat my academic journey. It has been rough and challenging and downright stressful. Am I the best student? No. But I am probably one of the most passionate,” she said.
She said the main challenges she has had to overcome include lack of sleep, sometimes for days at a time, time management and financial crisis.
“Other students have a choice whether or not they go to sleep or do an assignment. I guess theoretically I have the same basic choice, but really it is more than that. My choices are not that simple. My choices are between living the same stressful life or providing a better life for my son. I don’t choose between sleep and the assignment; I choose between working two jobs and barely seeing my son and graduating with a degree so I can have one job and more time with my son,” explained Olson.
None of this would be possible for Olson without the support of her brother, who oftentimes takes her son to minor doctor appointments and is present when needed at his school. This helps Olson miss as little of work and her school as possible.
An education is more than a piece of paper for her; an education provides the promise of a better quality of life for her and her son, and that is motivating.
Olson has experienced going hungry, having no utilities and no running water, and falling ill and not being able to afford a doctor visit. These are all things that she hopes will never happen again once she can have a more stable work schedule in her career as an educator.0
She remains positive through all of the challenges and is determined to be successful. “I have had many difficult times and situations in my life and most likely many more to come. Just as many people have, I am no different … I have learned to roll with the punches. I am truly grateful for my experiences because they are why I am who I am. I am resilient, I am dedicated, I am passionate, I am determined and I am a single mom who has been blessed more times than I can count. I have family who loves me, a roof over my head and the necessary items needed to sustain me,” she said.
“Thankfully, I was resilient and persistent enough to become a teacher … I was blessed with many professors who were flexible, understanding, patient and who truly cared about my success,” she said. “Honestly, I can say that the majority of my professors were just amazing, and I will be forever grateful and in their debt.”
Olson plans to teach high school English and possibly take on a role with AVID or drama at the high school level. Her goals include a master’s degree in both English and education in the future and possibly teaching at a junior college summer program.
In the long term, Olson would like to run for a spot on the USD 259 school board and believes a representative with years of experience in education would be beneficial to the board.
Olson concluded, “I may not be proud of (some) choices I have made in the past; I am proud of who I am becoming and where I am going. I can thank my son and God for the motivation for success. I have had a bountiful life and I am excited about what the future holds for not only me but my son in particular. I am excited to show him that anything is possible if you want it bad enough and you work hard enough for it.
“My experiences give me something that I can show my students what they are capable of. If I can go back to school as a single mom and graduate, then anything is possible for them.”