Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of three stories about UCC students’ daily lives. Our goal with the series is to showcase the often-extraordinary challenges that current college students deal with.

QSA member, Sahara Napper, discusses pronoun importance

Engineering student Sahara Napper is often the first to arrive in the TOP study room.
Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream

Second-year transfer student Sahara Napper was born female, but his pronouns are he/him/his.  He does usually tell this at least once when meeting new acquaintances, but admits he questions whether it is worth the discomfort of continually reminding those on campus of this.

As Napper silently worked on his homework recently in the TOP area, a peer referred to him as “she.” The student quickly followed the mistake with an apology for the wrong pronoun. Napper shook his head as he let the student know, “It’s okay, what matters is you self-corrected; I appreciate that,” he said.

Napper is often misgendered but isn’t usually quick to correct others. “I tend to be pretty socially anxious. I question whether the distress of being misgendered is worse than the stress of having to stop and correct someone when they are in the middle of talking, like a teacher,” Napper said.  

Often cloaked in a beige trench coat and rainbow hand warmers warming his cuffs, Napper is frequently seen on campus, silently sitting on his favorite couch in ESB-15, doing homework.

Napper heads to his bus stop each morning from Myrtle Creek for a daily 6:15 a.m. bus pick up to be at UCC by 7 a.m., sometimes waking at 4:30 a.m. to walk the mile to the bus stop, before many students and teachers even awake.

He recently changed his major after a year of working toward a math degree to get into classes that would eventually transfer to a bio-engineering program: “I really love math and science, but with bio-engineering I get to take a bunch more science,” Napper said with a notable enthusiasm.

Although Napper only has classes on campus Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he does not skip heading to campus on Thursdays. He is an active member of Queer Student Alliance, QSA, at UCC, which meets at 10 a.m. each Thursday fall term. Although Napper is admittedly shy, he has been committed to the small QSA group since first attending: “For me, it is really important to know there are other people familiar with what I’ve been through.”

Nursing program hopeful, Natalie Terry attempts school-work-life balance

Pre-nursing student, Natalie Terry smiles for the camera as she shows of her Outstanding Student Achievement award at the end of the 2022 spring term.
Photo provided by Natalie Terry

Second-year pre-nursing student and Phi Theta Kappa member Natalie Terry is frequently busy. Depending on the day of the week, her peers in her second-year Spanish class see Terry’s bright smile on Zoom or in a front-row seat in room 16, when she is on campus; whether she was able to sleep is usually up in the air.

On top of being a full-time student, Terry is a specialized caregiver at New Horizon’s for two unique patients, often taking the overnight shift to care for her clients.

She navigates a schedule of 12 credits at UCC, part-time caregiver of two, mother of three sons, and grandmother of four children. Terry has the major goal of being accepted into UCC’s nursing program and ultimately a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Science.

“I always wanted to be a nurse,” Terry said. “I just raised my kids first.”

Terry acknowledges that being in her forties makes her a nontraditional student. I had kids early, I was an emancipated minor when I had my oldest boy 27 years ago,” Terry said.

Last term, while studying with another peer in the school library, Terry overheard younger students mocking her age. “I could hear them make fun of me for being old to them,” Terry said with a drop in tone. But you know what? I’m doing good here,” Terry said with a shake of her head.

From a college perspective Terry is more than good, after decades of raising her children, a divorce and a spring term 2021 return to schooling, Terry has applied a work ethic to her studies that has other teachers and students taking notice. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society (a national college organization with a 3.5 and above GPA requirement), has been on the president’s list every term since starting, and continues to maintain a 4.0 GPA.

Along with a full work and school schedule, Terry makes time every week to volunteer at Saving Grace, cleaning kennels, dog walking or photographing dogs.  She also volunteers at Amedisys Home Hospice spending time with hospice patients, so their caregivers can step away to run errands or recharge. Terry attempts her own recharge on the weekends.

I try to do my homework Monday through Friday so that when I get home I can focus on my family. I attempt to keep a work-life balance,” Terry said with a wry tone.

Transfer student redesigns schedule for school/work success

Second-year transfer student, Laura Emigh, finds it helpful to do most of her homework on campus in the ESB15 study room.
Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream

Second-year transfer student Laura Emigh, who is an Upward Bound and Douglas High School graduate, laughs lightly as she surveys a picture of herself. “My resting face always looks angry,” she shrugs with a small smile. Focused might be a better word. Emigh is often seen staring at her computer in the ESB 15 study room for Transfer Opportunity Students, with her ear pods in, hair often done in two neat braids, doing her homework before working her evening shift at Crumble Cookies. 

Emigh starts her weekdays by 8:30 a.m. so she can put medicine in her elderly cat’s food. Besides her cat Angelica, she also has two other cats. “I am starting to be a crazy cat lady,” Emigh says with a laugh.

Usually on campus Mondays and Wednesdays by 10 a.m., Emigh tries to stay on campus doing her homework before her usual night shift of 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. at her job, baking cookies. “I try to get my homework done before work, but I have had to stay up ‘til 4 a.m. some nights to get my assignments in on time.”

This is important to Emigh because when she first began school at UCC, she admittedly took on more work and credits than she was prepared for. 

“In high school, when I was in the Upward Bound Program, I had a full-time job and was a full-time student, so I thought I could handle it at UCC, “Emigh said. Emigh’s first term at UCC was not that simple.

“The work was different than expected,” Emigh said. She fell behind in several courses, earning poor grades that would push her into financial aid probation.

Emigh, like many others at UCC, pays a substantial portion of tuition with federal student aid.  This federal aid requires continuous proof of 2.0 GPA. Because of her current financial aid probation, she must write aid appeals and take meticulous notes for any new changes or evolution of her college plan.

Emigh has a rhythm now; she works and goes to school, taking significantly fewer classes this term so she can give her chosen classes much more focus. She saves time for Friday night Dungeons and Dragons with friends and coworkers, like UCC student Connor Howe.

“I’m getting A’s in the classes I’m taking, so I believe it’s working,” Emigh said with a smile tugging at her mouth. “I like school; it’s hard to explain, but I feel bigger after coming here.”

Do you know of a hard-working UCC student, you’d like to see featured in the next “Day-in-the Life?” Please send student nominations to www.uccmainstream.@yahoo.com.


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For more articles by Rachel Arceo please click here.