By Cheryl Berardo, Outreach & Lab Technician at TRiO Student Support Services

I was an eager non-traditional student here in 2006 with lots of hopes and dreams. I wanted to make that difference, but more importantly, I needed to succeed. So, I marched on and built relationships with friends and my professors. It was amazing to me. My husband was deployed for 18 months too and I had a lot of emotions to deal with. I found out very quickly that I needed help adjusting to being a student. 

One of my friends shared with me, what I call APSU’s best-kept secret, TRiO Student Support Services. So, I had to investigate that secret! Boy, did I ever.  TRiO is my hero. The relationships I formed with everyone in the department speaks volumes to me and for me. These relationships made me who I am today and yes, I made it and got my degree with the help of TRiO. Fast forward, I worked as a Corporate Relations Director for many years and now I wanted to continue to give back what was once given me. As I said, I began my career two months ago with the department that gave so much to me.

One day last week I decided to people watch, so I walked to the UC for my lunch break. I found a small table in the corner so I could sit and reflect.  I was sitting in the corner that day when I noticed the African Culture display. Two young ladies were sharing with many that walked by about an upcoming fashion show that they were so excited about.

Then, at a glance, I saw a young white petite student wavering side to side to the edges of the floor with her walking stick. Her arm was held by an older white woman that was helping to open the door.  Just then, this woman left the blind student standing there alone and turning in circles while tapping her stick against the floor. Many bypassers walked on by.  I knew I needed to go quickly to see if I could help this young student but I was too late.

You see, the young lady at the African Culture display with the long beautiful braids did not hesitate and rushed quickly to her side to help this young blind student. I watched this act of kindness from my seat and my heart smiled. The student with the long beautiful braids led her outside the UC and down past the library until I could see them no more. 

I knew APSU was not divided. I had to let someone know what I just — the act of love. So, now I was on a mission. I found out the young girls name who quickly rose to help. Then, I had to let others know the act of kindness that I witnessed first hand.  Finding out that APSU had a character counts forum that I could nominate this young woman, I did just that. Now, finally, I needed the university to know what kind of sweet souls attend this great university.

My wish for APSU is to challenge this great university to pay this act of kindness forward so that all can feel the beautiful way I felt that day. One more thing to say — TRiO made me feel the exact same way when I was a non-traditional student. Now I can pay it forward now as I work here with all the many who will know about the best-kept secret at APSU.