“Hello, this is Christina with the Peninsula College Bookaneer. How can I help you?”
I often wonder how many people have heard those words from me in the last 14 years. My name is Christina Wonsey, and I am the Bookstore Supervisor at Peninsula College. I am also a wife, a mother to three brilliant children, and a Peninsula College alumnus with my BAS in Applied Management.
Before I held those titles, I held many other, less than ideal, labels: addict, child abuse survivor, mental health risk, homeless and more. Sharing my personal struggles and successes can be met with mixed reviews. Shock, amazement, pride, and oftentimes, disgust and judgment. This can make it difficult to share without being candid or completely truthful, but if I have learned one thing in life, it’s that when you have an unbelievable and life-changing story, you embrace the labels, you share with abandon, and who knows? There may be someone who needed to hear your story in order to rewrite their own.
I spent most of my childhood in less-than-ideal situations and states of mind. My story is probably no different than many others across America, but at the age of 24, almost two years into recovery, I found myself wanting more than those labels and memories. I would watch my two children and suddenly panic that somehow family history would repeat itself. School and education had kept me going through the worst times, so I decided to make a better life for my family so that we could do more than “just make it”.
As a child, even if the power was out, there was no running water and no dinner, at least there was school. Homework, extra projects from the teacher, and books brought home from the school library kept my brain preoccupied. I was good at school and I could control my participation and my success in it. I had used school as an escape before, why not use it now as a tool to break a cycle and possibly go further in life than I imagined was possible?
Making the decision to go back to school was the easy part. Completing that goal and keeping that promise to my family would be a completely different story.
I did not come to PC the first day equipped for success. I was actually late, disorganized, and a complete mess for at least the first few weeks. The life of any college student can be rough and chaotic. As a mother of two kids under two years old, working part-time on campus and struggling with physical illness for nearly three of my five years as a student at PC, I definitely felt those rough, chaotic patches and nearly lost my way more than once; ready to throw in the towel completely on several occasions.
If there weren’t people to help guide me through the rough patches or fill my “personal drive tank” I could easily have just given up. What I discovered was not just Peninsula College’s beautiful campus and true dedication to education, but the wonderful and encouraging people who provided the reassurance, encouragement, and support I needed when I needed it. I call these people my PC family.
People like Patty McCray-Roberts, the bookstore manager who gave a self-conscious work-study student and recovering addict a job after so many years out of the workforce. She then convinced me that I was capable of more and to take on PC’s BAS Applied Management program. The staff in Student Services were always smiling and prepared to offer help and guidance, especially if I came in panicked about financial aid paperwork- like the time I completely forgot to register for fall quarter altogether!
Biology professor Brian Hauge made sure I was given adequate time to dictate my final paper to my husband who typed it after I temporarily lost the use of my right arm during an extended illness. Math lab faculty and student tutors provided endless hours of tutoring, while I struggled with my statistics course. Ed Jaramillo, Director of the BAS program, spent 20 minutes on the phone refusing to allow me, panicked and nine months pregnant, to give up on the dream I wrote so fervently about in my application letter.
I so cherished the atmosphere, the above and beyond mentality, and the dedication from faculty and staff at PC, that I knew I wanted to remain a part of the college community for as long as I could. When the opportunity presented itself, I became not just a proud Peninsula College alumnus, but a full-time employee!
I spent five years on the receiving end of all the good that PC had to offer, now I hope to spend many more being there for as many Peninsula College students as I can. I want to be just like each faculty and staff member here; someone who strives every day to provide kindness, encouragement, and drive in students who are on the road to their own academic achievements.
Thank you Peninsula College for helping me reach my goal, keep a promise to my children, break the cycle, and for the opportunity to do more than “Just make it.”