Finding Where I Fit

Editor's Note: Lance Evans is the current Rural Organizing and Outreach Program intern. He lives in Wayne, Nebraska and attends Wayne State College.

By Lance Evans

Four years ago I was faced with a difficult choice. Where do I want to go to college? How was I supposed to know? There are a lot of colleges in Nebraska, many more than I ever thought there were, this made the decision much more difficult.

Like with any major decision I am faced with I carefully weighed my options. Do I want a large school or a small school? Do I want to stay in the public education system or test the waters of private institutions? Do I really even want to go to college? Luckily, my parents answered that last one for me, turns out I did. 

After sizing up my options, checking my FAFSA and my bank account, I signed on to be a Wayne State Wildcat. I was urged to reconsider by a few people. Some thought Wayne was too small and remote to provide an interesting enough environment to keep me for four years. I took this into consideration. I decided that I would use Wayne State as a spring board, get my general classes out of the way, decide on a major, then transfer after two years to a large university. 

Here I am four years later, staring down graduation, with only the thought it went too quickly. I wish there was more time. The community of Wayne deeply set its hooks in me. Small communities have a way of drawing in residents, and that is the case between me and both the community of Wayne and WSC.

College is a time of learning, not just academically but about the world. Learning from the community was as valuable as the lessons I received from the institution itself. Spending the first ten years of my life in a small town I learned honesty, hard work and the feeling of community are all high priorities in rural living. Moving to a city at age ten showed me a very different way of life. Significantly less attention is paid to these ideals in the larger community. Attending a small college has done an amazing job of shifting my focus back to the principles of my childhood. 

The misconception that bigger is better often transfers into peoples ideas about education. At first glance, it may seem a small school cannot offer all the things a large university can. The idea seems to be that with fewer professors, smaller enrollment, and lower tuition, students somehow get a lower quality of education. A smaller atmosphere can supply the same quality of education at a reduced price. You get out of education what you put into it. In a small college setting professors do an excellent job of inspiring students to put more into their education. 

Just like in education, small communities can offer the things that a larger one can. People all too often have false prejudices about rural communities. Small communities offer a partnership with the community, a chance to really be a part of something that is meaningful. Going to a small college has reminded how important the idea of community is to me, and how important it is to be an active part of one. You get from a community what you put into it.

I am the type of person who can be swallowed by a crowd quickly. A small college has given me an environment in which I can flourish. My time at a small college has taught me I have a voice on my small campus and ultimately in the world. Every person needs to feel as though they are productive, and meaningful.

A small college has not closed any doors for me. People have told me that I limit myself on what I can do by not attending a large university. I pay little mind to these comments. There are endless opportunities and avenues for me to explore. I have learned as much from my studies at Wayne State College as I would have learned anywhere else. A strong academic background and a renewed sense of civic pride are lessons I take with me to communities large or small.