Leanne Greene ’18 has had more than her share of setbacks on her way toward achieving her dream of being a teacher.
She is a single mother of three school-aged children, which she says is “a true blessing” but has been a bit challenging at times. She recalls one day, for instance, when all three kids had a snow day, but she still had to attend her classes. “My professors were very understanding,” Greene remembers. The kids came to campus with her and quietly colored during her class. “My daughter took notes, too. She was better at it than I was,” she laughs.
Some of her setbacks, however, were far more serious. Soon after her youngest son was born, early in her college days at SUNY Canton, he became very ill. It soon became evident that Greene would have to withdraw from school in order to be with her son while he was hospitalized for more than three months. “We still don’t know what made him so sick,” Greene says, “but he got better and now, six years later, people are surprised to find out he was ever so sick.” She added with a smile, “He’s my miracle baby.”
Once her son’s health stabilized, Greene decided it was time to see her own doctor about health concerns that she thought were only minor. It turned out that she had ovarian cancer. After several surgeries and chemotherapy, she is happy to report that she has been cancer-free for five years now.
It was time for her to return to school, and she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at SUNY Potsdam. Part of her decision to attend Potsdam was the College’s outstanding reputation in the field of education. Greene also had a personal connection to the College, as her grandfather and her sister are both Potsdam alumni. Greene admits that she fell in love with the campus when she attended her sister’s Commencement ceremony, which Greene says was “absolutely beautiful.”
While she still had the dream of becoming a teacher, Greene chose to major in biology as an undergraduate, and then later earn her Master of Science in Teaching. However, three years ago, she suffered yet another setback when she fell ill again, which meant that she needed to withdraw from school until she regained her health. Unfortunately, in addition to the worries from her latest health challenges, she was left with dwindling financial resources to continue her studies. When she recovered physically, she was despondent to realize that she had maxed-out her financial aid grants and loans from the government.
By now, Greene was ready to give up on her dream of becoming a teacher. Then came the wonderful news that she was being offered a scholarship from the College’s M. Catherine Roberts Scholarship Fund, which SUNY Potsdam President Kristin Esterberg had designated for exceptional students like Greene who might not be able to finish their degree without scholarship support. “I thought there was a mistake in the letter,” Greene says. “I thought there was an extra ‘zero’ in the amount of the scholarship.” Happily, there was no mistake.
The scholarship was a godsend to Greene. “It meant that I was able to finish school,” she says, “to make a better life for me and my children.” She adds that the scholarship gave her hope – for without it she would never have been able to do what she dreamed to do.
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