When I was a little girl I thought Lake Erie was the ocean. I loved how small I felt there and how endless the edge of the world could be. As I discovered that Lake Erie was, in fact, not the ocean and became more acquainted with the world around me, I developed a sense of wonder with just how beautiful it is. This wonder led me to Lake Erie 13 years later- this time to attend college.
From the very beginning Gannon University filled me with awe. Both in and out of the classroom I have been challenged to embrace the full beauty that is God’s creation. Through service I have shared community with those suffering and I have been challenged to use my skills to make a difference. In many ways, Gannon has become like my fairytale. The cobblestone on A.J.’s Way, the beautiful brick of Old Main and the sunsets over the Lake are entwined with my perception of Gannon’s identity.
I believe that deep-rooted perception is what made me so nervous to visit our campus in Ruskin, Fla., in February to serve as the Student Government Association President and a member of Gannon’s Board of Trustees for the groundbreaking of a new campus facility and the dedication of recently renovated common area to the existing facility.
I couldn’t begin to imagine that a Gannon campus without A.J.’s Way or the arch would feel the same. For three years, I had naturally heard tales of Ruskin. I saw the pictures, read the articles and even Google Map searched the location. Much like when I couldn’t believe the lake was not actually an ocean, I couldn’t believe that there was a Ruskin campus.
Kendra Walker, Accounting and Finance Major, and Student Government Association President
When my plane arrived in Tampa, I was impressed to see the climate was much different. The air felt warmer and the city was quicker. However, during our 90-minute drive to Ruskin, I noticed that the world around us seemed to get slower. Concrete jungles gave way to quiet farm land. Things grew further apart but kept the sense of development. It was the feeling of a city that is just starting to gradually grow. In many ways it reminded me of Erie and I became more at home, comfortable and excited to see campus.
Of course, I was most interested in meeting the students. I had so many questions. Did they feel a part of Gannon? Were they curious about Erie? Were they friendly? What was the culture like down here? How did they feel about the Ruskin community? The list was endless.
Upon interacting I was surprised to see just how special these students were. I had the opportunity to see all the great work that they have been doing both in and out of the classroom. I heard of semester-long trips to Ecuador to provide care to the poor. I witnessed demonstrations using classroom equipment. I heard stories of how working in the community has changed their lives.
Master of Athletic Training students Stephanie Deschamps (Left) and Hannah Merrifield (Right), with Keith Taylor, Ph.D., University President (Middle)
These students were friendly and passionately fierce. They were each filled with a fire to make a difference in the world and the compassion to serve. I also saw the pride in their face when they talked of Gannon University. As they gave tours of their halls and talked of future development they were so proud and thankful that they were the first to experience the next chapter in the Gannon story.
It was through the students, their hunger, their passion and, most importantly, their love, that I once again was filled with wonder.
View a video of the groundbreaking, and dedication and blessing ceremonies at Gannon's Ruskin Campus.
Gannon University is more than brick walls. It is more than a beautiful Lake and an arch. Gannon University is family. It is an institution with the Mission and commitment to transform lives. While one student may sit in the sands of Presque Isle, and another may bask in the sun at the Gulf, we are the same. We share the same dreams and will always be connected by love.