I can pretty much guarantee that I would have never gone to college if it wasn't for my accident. I had no desire to go to any more school after high school. I imagine I would've did my stint in the military or gotten a job around Enderlin on the railroad or ADM. Possibly gotten into farming and ranching depending how things went. The only reason I decided on continuing my education was something to do. I had no clue what I was going to do after high school being in the situation I was in. But I was glad I chose to go to college and I was glad I chose North Dakota State University.
Before my accident in high school I pretty much did the bare minimum in the classroom to be able to compete in sports. I don't ever remember bringing home homework my freshman and sophomore year. I loved that first hour of study hall. It was the only reason I could keep my grades up to participate in football, wrestling and baseball.
After my accident I really did the bare minimum in high school. My grades went up but I squeaked by doing the minimum amount of credits to graduate. Knowing this I really didn't think I had a chance at going to college. Not that I wasn't smart enough, it was that I didn't have enough of the requirements to get in to a four-year school. In fact we had to write letters to NDSU in order for them to let me try to go to school. You could say I was on, "Double secret probation." Some of you will get that.
I remember going to orientation and thinking I am never going to be able to do this. Orientation was an eye-opening experience. It wasn't so much the size of the campus, I think it was mostly just how many people there were. I remember doing the math test to see what class you would be placed in. During high school the farthest I got in math was one year of freshman algebra class and one year of sophomore geometry class. I totally bombed the test and got put in math 100 or 101, I cannot remember. I was with all of the rejects, no offense to my fellow rejects. I remember looking around in my first couple classes in the fall and thinking none of these people are going to graduate. I can't believe I did. They were probably thinking the same thing about me.
As most of you know, I used to be very shy. Not so much anymore. Even before my accident I was shy. But after my accident I was painfully shy. The main thing that helped me get out of my shell was going to college. Furthering my education made me talk to people. It was a simple concept, if I didn't communicate I wasn't going to get anything done.
The first day of classes always sucked. At least for the first couple semesters. Before or after the first day of class I would have to go up to each instructor and explain my situation. I would have to say all of the instructors were very accommodating. I would have to ask them if I could use their notes. If not I would have to find a note taker for each class. I lucked out in a couple classes and had friends. But in most classes I would have to talk to complete strangers, OMG, and tell them how the notetaking works. They actually got paid if they wanted to. I got to know a lot of people and I got to know the instructors quite well by having to do this on the first day of every class. It was hard at first but like everything you get used to it.
I actually got so used to going up and talking to random strangers that I chose to go into Mass Communication. This major involves a lot of public speaking and group projects. I love group projects. That is one of the main reasons I chose Mass Communication as my major. The other reason was the ratio of women to men was in my favor, giggity. In most of the group projects nobody wanted to be the presenter. I got so comfortable being in front of people I would choose this role. I would let the other group members do all the legwork and I would do a ten minute presentation. It was a win-win, at least for me, ha. I didn't do half of the work and I got credit for all of it.
Another thing I got used to it doing is asking for help. Everyone wants to be independent but there are just some things I cannot do and I learned what I could and could not do while going to school. I just didn't have to ask for help for the classroom stuff, it was also just the getting around stuff. The campus of North Dakota State University is big and spread out. The campus is especially big for someone from a town of 900 people and the high school graduating class of 38. I think it was 38.
I learned pretty quick which buildings on campus were the easiest to navigate with a wheelchair. Most of the buildings were old but modified for accessibility. But that didn't mean that the modifications worked. I don't know how many times I was stuck in an elevator. Or how many times I was stuck outside of a building because the automatic door button thingamajig did not work. And of course when they didn't work no one was around. Weird when there is 10,000 students on campus. I got to know the maintenance guys pretty well on campus. They would see me coming and know something was up. The University did do a lot to accommodate students with disabilities. If I had a problem getting into a building they would change the class to a different room.
I don't know how many hundreds of people I met over my 5 1/2 years. But I met a lot of great people. I am glad that I am still good friends with quite a few of them. I wish I would've kept in touch with some of the ones I have lost contact with. But that is how it goes.
College also opened up some doors for me in other ways. One of those doors was working with the RedHawks for a couple summers. That was awesome. Getting to know the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on in order to get a game started on time is crazy. The amount of work and choreography that goes on to get a game started at 7:05 PM is impressive to say the least. Some days people are running around like a chicken with its head cut off. But every night they are always on time. Some days everything goes wrong and they are still on time. I mostly just did interviews with players and hung out in the press box drinking Mountain Dew and eating free food. But somebody has to do that also.
I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the RedHawks organization. Some of the players were quite entertaining. Manager Doug Siminic was also an interesting guy to interview. The highlight for me was getting to know Maury Wills. That guy has forgotten more about baseball than most people know about the game. Talking baseball with him was awesome.
Without my experience at college I would've never been able to be the president of our local wildlife club, the Enderlin-Sheldon Wildlife Club. The thought of me getting in front of people every month at our meetings would've rendered me into a blathering idiot without my speaking experience in school. I probably am still a blathering idiot that some of the meetings but at least I have the confidence to do it now.
That brings me to another door that was opened. That was getting to speak to some Fargo middle school students about my life. Last year about this time I was given the opportunity to do a couple presentations about my life before and after my accident. This is something I could have never done prior to NDSU. I have to admit I was a little nervous before the first presentation. But I guess nerves are sometimes expected. I really enjoyed my time presenting to the middle schoolers. I hope to do this much more in the future.
These are just a couple of the doors that have been opened. There have been many others but these are some of the highlights.
Random thought, I still remember my NDSU ID number. For some reason I think I will always remember that.
While I was at school I stayed off campus at a place called New Horizons. It is an apartment high-rise in North Fargo for people with disabilities or low income. This was another eye-opening experience. I could tell numerous stories about things that happened at this place. Mostly stories about other tenants. But that is for another time and place. The most important thing I learned from staying at New Horizons was that staying locked up in your apartment is no way to live life. I would say the majority of the people in that building never left that building or never left their apartment. I myself was only there to sleep and eat. I believe I had an apartment close to 10 years. The day I decided to leave was when I came home late one evening probably from O'Kelly's and there was a drag queen in a wheelchair going on to the elevator. Not that there's anything wrong with that life choice but holy shinto, that is something I do not need to see every day.
Anyway, because of my experiences at North Dakota State University I am the person I am today. There were good times and there were bad times but I wouldn't change it for the world.
I have to say the only reason I graduated was because of the help of my family and friends. Without them none of this would have been possible. Thanks.
I have come a long ways since hiding under the table every time my kindergarten teacher would call my name. I owe it all to my college experience. It did not suck.
Thanks for reading, Clint.
PS: I am not a fan of editing.