May 10, 2011

Students say Bonaventure community cares about them

ST. BONAVENTURE (April 28) – Holding her dying mother, Meredith Haggerty called the hospital, crying.  Her mother passed out after coughing up blood for the third time that week.

            An ambulance rushed her mother to the hospital, and doctors told the high school senior her mother’s cancer had left her weighing a mere 85 pounds and incapable of walking.

            Haggerty decided to skip college to help her mother.

            Students, professors and the Counseling Center at St. Bonaventure University help students overcome depression and suffering.      

Last February, Doctors diagnosed Haggerty’s mother with stage three ovarian cancer.

They told Haggerty’s mother she had six months to live.

“Words can’t describe how that day felt,” Haggerty said. “But I had a 10-year-old brother who did not fully understand what was going on and a younger sister who I needed to be brave for.”

            Haggerty traveled to a cancer treatment center with her mother every Tuesday to Friday of each week for four months. The trip took three hours, and Haggerty missed four days of high school each week.

Haggerty’s low attendance and declining grades almost forced her to skip college the following year.

            “Being with my mom was more important to me than college,” she said. “Although I was a little disappointed because I’d always dreamed of playing college tennis.”

            Head coach Michael Bates recruited Haggerty to Bonaventure.

            “Meredith said she was coming to Bonaventure during fall semester,” Bates said. “But when she told me she wasn’t coming because of her mother’s cancer, I understood, but continued to call her at least once a week to see how she was doing.”

            In July, doctors pronounced Haggerty’s mother cancer free, the first survivor of an experimental drug that kills stage three ovarian cancer cells.

            “It was a miracle,” Haggerty said.

Haggerty said Bates supported her by calling weekly.
“He was the only coach that kept calling me even after I told him I wasn’t coming to Bonaventure,” Haggerty said. “He actually cared.”

            Haggerty committed to Bonaventure in July but worried about her mother.

            “She was still recovering and very weak,” said Haggerty,  “but my friends at Bonaventure helped me stop feeling guilty for leaving home and let me enjoy life again.”
            Haggerty, an elementary education major, holds a 3.7 grade point average.

             “I feel like I’m succeeding here, which has been a drastic change from my senior [high school] year,” said Haggerty. “And I’ve made such strong bonds with coach [Bates], my professors and my friends.”
            Bates said most coaches at Bonaventure become more of a mentor than just a coach.

            “I can’t speak for all of them,” Bates said, “but I do know most coaches here would help a player with problems outside athletics. Being a coach is more than just teaching fundamentals. You become a mentor as well.”

            And it doesn’t stop at coaches. Schooley said Bonaventure’s professors and the Counseling Center help students.

The sophomore suffered from depression during high school and carried it into her freshman year at Bonaventure.

In high school Schooley became overwhelmed with school, her grandmother’s battle with cancer and her parents’ crumbling marriage. 

            “I started cutting my wrists with a razor to release some of the inner pain,” she said. “I also became anorexic. My parents found out and screamed at me, which didn’t help. So I carried my depression into college.”

            During her freshman year, Schooley continued cutting herself and stopped going to class. Her friends told her to see a counselor.

            “The counselor helped tell my teachers and advisers why I was missing class and what I’d been going through,” Schooley said. “My advisers were so understanding.”

            Schooley saw a counselor for three months.

            “It was so nice to be able to talk without feeling like I was burdening my friends,” she said.

            Counselor Michele Rodkey said the Counseling Center meets with students in a comfortable setting.

            “We don’t diagnose anyone,” Rodkey said. “We simply listen and try to give them advice.”

             “Most students seeing a counselor stop once they feel they can enjoy life and be happy again,” said Rodkey. “But counselors continue to check up on the students weekly by email or phone.”

            Schooley, majoring in journalism and mass communication and international studies, hasn’t cut herself or missed a class this year. She accepted an internship with the National Peace Corps Association in Washington D.C. this summer.

            “I feel so much happier this year,” she said. “And without my friends, professors and the counseling center, I never would’ve overcome anything.”

            Schooley said she struggles with depression every day.

            “I just tell myself, ‘Maddy, you've got to suck it up and move on,’” Schooley said.  “Sure, some days I just want to stay in bed, but I need to keep myself moving. And of course I have my friends and advisers to help me do that.”



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