Student media editor, STEM student perseveres as she pays her own way through college

Published by Rachel Arceo on

Nutrition student Savannah Peterson, who is transferring as a STEM student, studies for her Organic Chemistry class. Peterson originally planned to go to beauty school but was inspired by her journalism teacher, Melinda Benton, to go to college to work towards a degree in nutrition.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

When graduating transfer student and The Mainstream managing editor Savannah Peterson first began at UCC, she was still heavily considering skipping college and going straight to beauty school. However, as a young swimmer, she had been inspired by her own observations of the impact of good nutrition. She dreamed of becoming a nutritionist, but she lacked confidence to pursue this because she was unfortunately influenced by the disparaging narrative of an old ex-boyfriend.

“I had a toxic relationship when I was really young; both he and his mom told me I wasn’t smart enough or good enough to be a nutritionist, so they told me I should just do hair, and that stayed with me,” Peterson says.

Peterson is now a 3.6 GPA student, will be earning her associate of applied science degree this June 16 and will transfer next fall to Oregon State University to earn a Master of Science Registered Dietician Nutritionist degree.

“When I look back, I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now,” Peterson says of her heavy STEM course load and involvement with student media.

How it began

When Peterson was considering attending UCC after graduating high school, she originally was on track for a business degree, having taken many dual credit business classes while in high school. She had no previous journalism experience, but she saw a flyer promoting an opportunity to get 12 credits paid for through work with UCC’s student media. She called and met with Melinda Benton, her soon-to-be advisor and mentor. 

“When I first met her, I was still unsure if writing was something I should do, but Melinda said, ‘Everybody needs communications; everyone needs to know how to write. If you want to run a business, you need to learn how to write for your business; you need to learn how to advertise.  You have to learn how to communicate effectively.’ She is right,” Peterson says.

After meeting with Benton, Peterson was invited to be a merit student for The Mainstream.   With admittedly no prior experience with Associated Press writing rules or interview skills, Peterson learned through continual work. School also helped Peterson gain the confidence to pursue her childhood dream of helping people through nutrition. She switched directions from business to the pursuit of her MSRDN before her second year at UCC.

The cost of an education

Peterson has strived to pay for college with as little financial help from her parents as possible.  “I can’t tell you why it was so important to not rely on them, but I’ve just always wanted to do this by myself,” Peterson says. “I avoided asking them for money for school until I got to a point of ask for help or don’t go to school.”

Savannah Peterson walks the halls of the Bonnie J. Ford Health, Nursing and Science Center nearly everyday. Recently, she has prepared for her transfer to OSU by applying for scholarships, loans, and the nutrition program at OSU.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

She still has paid for the vast majority of her schooling. Peterson applied for scholarships and financial assistance but has had little success receiving any significant scholarships, possibly because at 21 she is still considered a dependent and has to factor in her parent’s modest income. 

Peterson admits that sometimes the lack of scholarships or grants awarded to her has been disheartening. With all the work, effort and commitment she has put in to pay for school working multiple jobs and even spending two terms volunteering at a cancer center, she still struggles to get financial assistance.

“As easy is as it is to let it get you down, I try to remember I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing, and I have to trust that,” Peterson says. “I don’t let it define me because, if I do, then I might not finish, and that’s not an option.”

Lessons learned

Multiple instructors have openly admired Peterson’s work ethic. Associate professor of communication and Peterson’s student media advisor, Melinda Benton, has worked closely with Peterson over the years and notes her impressive drive.

“Some people simply chase after their dreams; Savannah fights them to the ground, ties a goal around them, and whips them into shape until they’re on board with her insane schedule,” said Benton over the phone. “I’ve known many students in my 30 years of teaching, but few can match Savannah’s work ethic and integrity.”

“She works so hard behind the scenes, making sure in every one of her three jobs that work gets done correctly.”

Associate professor of science and Peterson’s chemistry instructor, Sean Breslin agrees that Peterson’s work ethic is impressive.

“Her superpower is her work ethic; her tenacity is ridiculous. Being that mature in terms of understanding life, it’s a rare thing that you have somebody that young that has that much of a plan and will stick to it. She is taking two of the hardest classes at UCC; these are really difficult classes she is taking, and she refuses to give up.” 

Breslin notes that Peterson has had many times where she struggled with the math involved or grasping certain concepts, but she does not give up or take the path of least resistance like many others do. “She tackles it, and eats it up. That tenacity of hers is catalytic; it’s why we teachers do what we do. She is a catalyst.”

Goodbye to The Mainstream

After being hired by Benton, Peterson worked first as a reporter, then as social media director, then as managing editor of UCC student media. “I really started The Mainstream because of the merit award,” Peterson says. “But now I know how to do all these things. Though I am majoring in nutrition, my strongest suit in education is writing. My journey, once I graduate OSU, is going to heavily involve writing. I am going to express nutrition and nutritional needs through my writing.

“I have these goals of what I can do as a nutritionist, but I can also be a nutritionist researcher or even the writer for the researcher. I can do things that you never hear about people doing because you don’t think of people writing for that job.” 

Peterson admits she is excited to be done with this chapter of her education but is confident that the challenges she has weathered and the resulting skills she acquired from classes and working on The Mainstream staff have prepared her for her continued education journey. 

“I’ve learned so many skills here,” Peterson says. “It’s funny when I think about it; I started The Mainstream for the merit, but without it, I would have probably just gone to beauty school. So this whole thing really started because of The Mainstream.”

The Mainstream will miss you, Savannah Peterson.

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