The Starfish Story by Loren Eiseley

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,

"It made a difference for that one.” 

At the conference in South Carolina, participants were asked how they made a difference. Who’s your “one”? Here’s what they said:

David was a young boy in Memphis City Schools. He had lost his mom to illness and father to violence! I worked a full year of my life to ensure he improved with his education by positive motivation. Through a connection in sports, we not only raised David from bottom 10% to top 33% national testing. I learned more from David than he did from me!

I work with many older lifelong learners and they often share how this program has changed their life, given them purpose, gained friendships and they appreciate my charming personality J I’ve “adopted” many of them as my own! Ha!

My very first advisee stopped by my office last week because she is graduating in the summer. She hugged me for helping her through everything and told me she would miss me.

It seemed a little thing to follow up with the student to make sure her problem was solved. Then she responded “You made me feel like someone cared.” It made my day J

We work with a 91 year young student who contacted us to complete his bachelor’s degree. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks prior to completion and his degree was awarded posthumously at his funeral service. We helped him reach one of his lifelong goals.

Graduate of mine just decided to follow career advice and enlist for Army OCS partially because of my talk about my own service.

A lady walks into my office, about 60 years old, and tells me her husband left her. She has 2 years educational funds.  After many tears shed and talking through her fears, I am happy to say she leaves this fall for travel abroad opportunity to France and she graduates next spring!

A student completed his Industrial Electricity program and earned his Electrician license. He returned to his native country, Ecuador, to provide electricity to villages near his home.

Dan McIntosh Brown, University of South Carolina. 90 year old who returned after the death of his beloved wife and crossed the stage last summer! He was writing his obituary and didn’t want it to say he “attended” USC…so he came back!

I was able to work with a student and 2 faculty members to move her to another section of her course in which other co-workers were enrolled. This move helped her stay motivated to finish the course and have the peer support she needed. We were not only able to work together to her moved, the new sections faculty member accepted the work she already completed, eliminate that stress and extra work for the student!

I first met Adam when he was trying to finish his degree after being out several years. His previous college was spent enjoying the activities and not focused on classes. We worked together to establish a plan for him to complete his degree. He was very happy and very grateful for our program and he was able to complete his dream.

First time student who is classified as an adult learner was thankful for help as she pursued her educational goals. She was afraid to begin due to her age and I encouraged her (mainly listened but helped with admissions and financial aid question and referred to appropriate personnel)!

I have had several students tell me that they appreciate my quick responses and communication. As adult students, they require flexible scheduling options and being available for them in important!

As an adjunct instructor, I find many of my students, though traditional age are non-traditional in terms of school-work balance, family, children and other personal barriers to success. Over time, I have been able to introduce flexibility into my otherwise traditional f2f classroom on in terms of attendance, flexible assignment completion, students can move ahead and can actually finish the class early or work around their work schedule. This has led to increased completion and success rates and alleviates stress when trying to deal with their own work/school/family life balance. Included in this model is a hybrid basis for the class for the students while I, as the professor am there in class and online to meet with students at best meets their needs. This originally started when trying to meet the needs of one student, but I have found that expanding the flexibility helps all students.

Mentored your staffer to work on her degree for promotion. She is about to finish - about a year after 7 years. Very proud of her.

Helped student finish bachelor degree after stop out for 10 years taking 3 classes one summer to start grad school that fall. She was elated.

Learning about a diverse range of the higher ed experience while being inspired to do more in their great field – that’s my story!
Every day I strive to bring a feeling of happiness and community to my coworkers so that they will pass that on to the students they help.

We don’t provide any job placement or career services so it is particularly important for our students to network with their instructors. Our instructors are extremely well connected and are the best support we can provide without actually having career services. We have had a number of students secure positions in a completely new industry simply by using their instructor network. Several of these students have then gone on to move up into higher level positions at said company.

Sad, but meaningful. One of our students passed away in a car accident on the way home from class. I spent an hour with each of his parents learning about how happy the student was to take our class. We refunded part of the class fee to help with his funeral costs.

Provided encouragement to students working on their doctoral dissertation to complete the work and finish their degrees