Will McChesney is a former Sinclair College student. He is currently attending school at The Ohio State University as a political science major with a specialization in democracy and law and is also enrolled in the Pre-Law program. This is his story told in his own words.
My story isn’t terribly different from a lot of folks in the Miami Valley. I was born to a solidly middle-class family and had two parents who struggled with chemical dependency. Especially early on, my home-life was chaotic and I had a tough time in school as a result.
Growing up, I oscillated between the Dayton area (mom and stepdad) and Northern Kentucky (biological father). I attended Kettering City Schools while living in the Miami Valley.
I was never a very good student, some of which could be attributed to a learning disability and a general lack of interest (and a good deal of laziness) on my behalf. I will say that I had a lot of potential, however. I read at an accelerated rate and seemed to have a knack for writing.
Underachievement and low-expectations were traits of the personality I adopted as I got older. Being a “screw up” was an identity I slowly came to embrace.
By the time I reached high school, a “lost cause” would have been a fair characterization of me. I was living with my biological father at this point, complete with his hardcore alcoholism and sometimes violent behavior.
While sowing the seeds of my own chemical dependency, there was still a big part of me that wanted to be successful and go to college. I secretly dreamed of being an attorney, knowing that my reading, writing and analytical ability would serve me well in the profession, coupled with my desire to change aspects of American society I deemed to be unjust.
I attended high school in Union, Kentucky and was enrolled in a pre-college curriculum. Desperately grasping at the final fraying threads of my potential, I approached my guidance counselor asking for tutoring in a biology course I was taking.
She looked at my class-list and was nearly stupefied that a kid like me (at this point I was a known trouble-maker) was in such “challenging” courses. She immediately removed me from my pre-college trajectory and put me into classes just slightly above special needs. My classmates often fought and some struggled with basic literacy. I dropped out within months.
From that point forward, my life was pockmarked with struggle and disappointment. My father died of alcoholism in 2009. I eventually fell prey to the opiate crisis and all that comes with it: homelessness, legal ramifications and an emotionally damaged family as the result of my actions were enduring fixtures of my existence. For the better part of a decade, I was closer to death than I was to life.
After an especially low flashpoint, I had an almost epiphanic moment where I wanted to be clean, sober and live to the fullest of my potential. I refused to continue to wallow in regret, resentment and self-pity any longer. I found sobriety and made maintaining that my utmost priority. I found steady employment. While it wasn’t ideal work, it gave me the opportunity to support myself while I mounted a plan for a rather ambitious endeavor: attend a leading law school and become the attorney I had always dreamed of.
I contacted the American Bar Association and asked if I could still practice law considering my less-than-savory history. They said I could indeed practice at the federal level, as well as in 46 of 50 states. But would a law school actually admit me?
To inquire, I contacted every admissions office of the top 15 law schools in the United States, all of whom said they would indeed admit me if I had the same elite academic qualifications as their other admitted applicants. University of Virginia and Yale actually encouraged me to apply when the time came.
I was ready to redeem myself. I felt capable, determined, empowered and ready. I gathered my information and enrolled at Sinclair.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t have some degree of self-doubt. I had no clue what awaited me. Would I be accepted in academia? Could I actually be successful in the classroom? Up until that point, I had no sufficient evidence to prove that I could be successful at anything, really. Certainly not anything involving education and long-term effort.
I was stunned by what I found. At Sinclair, I discovered a faculty, administration and staff who would stop at nothing to help me realize my dreams. Sinclair provided me with opportunities far beyond anything I would have expected from a community college and prepared me well to weather any storm and conquer any challenges presented along the path to my dreams.
I am proud to say I maintained a 4.0 GPA through 66 credit hours and even found a little time to give back to the college that gave so much to me. In short, Sinclair saved me and provided me with a positive identity I so desperately sought but was unable to find. Sinclair irrevocably changed my life. I will never be able to accurately express my sincere gratitude to the College.
Part 2 of McChesney’s story will be published next week in The Clarion, and will include his current journey at OSU, a look at the challenges he faced academically, his advice for current students and what he misses most from Sinclair.