Every friend group has the mom friend and every girl scout troop has its den mother. A large group of students here at Etown have a campus mom. Stepf Diaz, the coordinator of multicultural programming and residential communities, is in charge of the Mosaic House on campus. The Mosaic House is a safe space, being the home away from home for people of different races, sexualities, and whatever else. Stepf, in charge of it all, became like the mom away from mom for many students here.
Grace Gibson, a first-year biology and English double major, knew she wanted to come to Elizabethtown College after attending an accepted students day at Villanova.
“It was between Villanova and here, and I didn’t want to go to Villanova,” she said.
She followed up with her first memory of the College: November 2016, at an open house event. After driving the two hours from her home in central New Jersey, her parents were convinced that they were going the wrong way because they claimed that there were too many farms.
But upon seeing Leffler Chapel, they knew they were in the right place; that did not stop them from exclaiming, “We’re in the middle of nowhere!”
After her first week here, Gibson was in the mindset of wanting to impress everyone and showing them that she was cool. She interjected that she was still obsessed with the Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 and was upset that it was closing. Her love of the musical was also shown by a poster for the musical hanging above her bed along with a beautifully detailed drawing of one of the actors, Grace McLean.
“I wanted to be the most impressive person my professors had ever seen, and I was excited about meeting new people, but I still wanted to focus on my schoolwork,” Gibson said, looking at the homework splayed across her desk.
She also said that while college is overwhelming, slightly terrifying at all times, and full of repressing all of her issues, it is mostly fun and she has many memories of good times, even in her first year.
“The most memorable moment so far has been Schlossmas, especially when we stole trays from the Marketplace and tried to go sledding before winter break,” Gibson said.
The name “Schlossmas” comes from a combination of the dorm she and her friends live in, Schlosser, and Christmas, since it was a celebration of winter break. She also recounted the movie night following snow-filled activities, like singing “Frosty, the Snowman” around a “sad and dirty” snowman wearing one of her friend’s hats and one stick arm.
“One day, my friend drove me and another friend to a pet store and one of my friends impulse-bought two small Fiddler crabs,” she said, followed by a few chuckles, when talking about funny moments at Etown.
Gibson also told the story of the not one, but two times her and three other friends stood in one of the very small service closets near the stairwell in Schlosser. They just hung out in the closet for at least 20 minutes, scaring half of the people walking by and receiving worried and confused looks from the other half.
“The second time we did it, we played music and one of my friends who was able to see into the stairwell kept making eye contact with the people walking down the stairs. I think we played the trap remix of the yodeling Walmart kid for most of the second time in the closet,” she said.
As I walked out of Gibson’s room, she turned back to her homework with a small sigh, resuming the never-ending studying for organic chemistry.
When I met him in his room, he was drumming away on a drum practice pad — rat-ta-ta-tat, ratta-tat-tat-tat, rat-ta-ta-tat — occasionally twirling the drum sticks and flipping them in his hand. He’s a secondary English education major at Elizabethtown College, who’s known since his junior year of high school that he wanted to come here.
His love of drumming and percussion has been with him since he was 4-years-old, when he was given a tiny Fisher Price drum set.
“My mom was tired of me taking spoons and hitting the edge of the tables and breaking both the corners of the tables and the spoons,” he said.
From then on, drumming became one of his passions. He has ADHD, so for him, drumming is a good physical release of energy that he can channel to calm his brain.
He still remembers the joy he felt when he got his first real drum set in seventh or eighth grade. While he’d known his parents had been talking of getting one for him, he hadn’t expected to come home from school one day to find giant boxes in the living room. Immediately, he wanted to get them out.
“So I called my mom, and I didn’t know she was in a meeting at work, and I just called her like five times, and she was like, ‘For the love of god, what do you need?’” He laughed. “And I was like, ‘Can I open these boxes?’ And she was like, ‘What boxes?’ ‘The drum boxes.’ And she goes, ‘Well that was supposed to be your Christmas gift, but go for it.’”
Although he enjoys drumming, he hopes to become a high school English teacher. A self-proclaimed English nerd, he loves not just the literature — Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is his favorite book, both because of its strong story and always-relevant lessons — but also all of the quirks and “odd little intricacies” of the language’s grammar itself.
He’s always known that he wanted to be a teacher, and pairing it with his love of English seemed natural, especially since he believes in the power of the written word to change the world.
“Through elementary school I always kind of idolized my teachers, because when you’re little you just have this vision that ‘Holy cow, this person can do anything,’” he said. “I figured that I can still kind of fulfill that wanting to be a superhero case through the role of a teacher.”
A miniature zoo
In the corner of his room are two aquariums sitting on a desk. Inside of one there’s a beta fish, a catfish, and a frog. In the other, there are two tiny fiddler crabs.
While those are the animals he has on campus, he actually has a lot more pets back at home, including two guinea pigs, a bearded dragon, two turtles, a hermit crab, and a dog. When asked which pet was his favorite, he quickly protested: “I can’t choose favorites! That’s like a parent choosing their favorite child, I refuse to answer that question.”
The funniest thing that one of his pets has ever done was when his hermit crab escaped from his cage.
“He crawled down the side of his dresser, out the hallway, through the kitchen, down a couple of stairs, up a curtain, and sat on top of wind chimes,” he said. “And when I went to open the door, he fell off the wind chimes and scared the crap out of me.”
As the interview came to a close, he picked his drumsticks back up again and started beating out another tune on the practice pad, skillfully spinning the sticks in his hand — rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat. In the corner of the room, his fish continued swimming in their tank. Later, he will open his laptop to work on his next paper he has due. But for now, he enjoys the time to make some music.
Listen to the interview with Kelly: https://soundcloud.com/samantha-seely/kelly-armstrong-interview
What is your name, year and major?
“I am Kelly Armstrong, I am a first year, and my major is occupational therapy.”
What is the weirdest thing that’s happened to you at Etown?
“Weirdest? Do you want me to tell you the dog peeing on a box story? We were down in the lobby, and there’s a box where you can donate books, and there was a dog in the lobby, and he wasn’t taken out, so he peed on the box and there is still a pee stain on the box.”
How did you meet your best friend?
“Fourth grade, I was neighbors with my friend Abigail, and the one time she had me over as well as my now best friend Jacqueline, and the three of us hung out and then I got to know Jacqueline more and we’ve been friends ever since like fourth grade.”
When did you know you were going to come to Etown?
“I knew when I came here on a visit and they told me about the study abroad opportunities, so I found out I could go to India and do an internship with OT while over in India, and then I also heard about all the other service trips you can take in the May term, summer term, and stuff like that. So that’s why I came here.”
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