MARIETTA, OHIO (October 10, 2019) — Being from a small town has its benefits. It’s where everyone knows you. Where folks help their neighbors, and where generations of families are deeply rooted. And while there are those who don’t appreciate what it means to reside in a small town, Madison “Maddie” Galloway, isn’t one of them. She recognizes the value and has no desire to distance herself from the community that rallied behind her when she needed them most. And today, it’s the place where friends and neighbors will celebrate her recognition as Washington State Community College’s (WSCC) Student of the Month.
Galloway was born and raised in the little village of McConnelsville, Ohio. It’s the place she dearly loves to call home and happily drives an hour each day to attend classes at WSCC. However, living at home and commuting to school wasn’t always her priority. In fact, the Morgan County High School graduate originally chose to move away to attend college.
Back in 2014, Galloway wanted to attend a small college—somewhere like her high school which had a graduating class of about 100. She desired a place where she could make personal connections and lifelong friends. She opted for a private institution, just a few hours north of her hometown. Yet private colleges are often synonymous with expensive. To pay for her school of choice, Galloway did what many students do; she borrowed money. After only one semester of tuition, fees, and books, the constant worry about this financial burden led Galloway to leave college.
While this decision would prevent the accrual of future debt, it would do nothing to remove the loans already borrowed. To start paying down her debt, Galloway returned home and took a job at the local grocery store. She was certain that stocking shelves with cans of soup and scanning her neighbor’s groceries at the checkout line would not give her the life that she wanted for herself, but she was determined to get her life back on track debt-free.
As each payment chipped away at her loans, the clock kept ticking. While she once anticipated the arrival of 2018, the year she would have graduated college, she now looked on it with dread. It had become the date she would have to watch her friends throw their mortarboards to the sky in celebration of an earned degree. It was now the year she mentally marked as her failure date.
Never wanting to concede defeat, she kept a smile on her face and continued to make her payments. Each month, little by little, she tried to pay down the balance. Despite her efforts, the total wasn’t decreasing at the pace she had anticipated. Yet, in the job where she least expected it, she found hope. Actually, hope found her, in the form of her middle school principal, Tim Hopkins.
And as you would typically expect in a small town, he didn’t just remember her face, he remembered Galloway’s name and that she was an academic over-achiever and someone with a bright future. Hopkins felt compelled to help his former student. “He told me I was too smart to be in this situation,” Galloway recalled.
In early 2017, he established a GoFundMe account and shared Galloway’s story. The people of the tiny community responded and the donations began to pour in. As the total began to mount, Galloway’s hope began toblossom. Between the contributions made on the crowdfunding platform site, Mr.Hopkins’ church, and the reduction in the total thanks to the negotiations Mr. Hopkins did with the college on Galloway’s behalf, the debt was eliminated. By the fall of 2018, the burden was lifted and she could finally get back on track and earn a college degree. “In October 2018 I started the enrollment process at WSCC, and while it was too late to start classes before the end of the year, I took back control of 2018,” she declared.
In pursuit of a degree in social services, Galloway is determined to be a successful student and make those who helped her proud. “It’s important for me to do well in my classes because I am especially thankful for all the opportunities I have been given,” she emphatically proclaimed. Since she began taking classes in spring, she has immersed herself wholly in campus life. In addition to carrying a perfect 4.0 GPA, she serves as a student ambassador, works in student services as a work-study, and recently concluded a temporary position as interim executive assistant to the president. Her commitment to academic success has earned her the much-deserved recognition as student of the month.
Galloway, humbled by the generosity of her community, has plans to repay the kindness, explaining that the impoverished areas in Morgan County and specifically, McConnelsville, can benefit from the social services skills she will have when she graduates in 2021. “While I’m working on my bachelor’s and master’s degrees I can contribute to a community that has given me so much.”
Unshaken by the obstacles she has hurtled to get to WSCC, Galloway now spends no time worrying that friends have already earned their degrees and gone on to start careers. “I’m proud of where I am and I know how I got here. There’s no shame in that. Getting your degree is not a race that you’re in with your peers.”
For Galloway and others, it is never too late.