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.
Hidden in the dark at the top of Gibble Auditorium, Brennan Praseut, or Kyle as people call him, operates the lights and other technical happenings for Mad Cow, Elizabethtown College’s improv group. A sophomore computer engineering major, Kyle has travelled many miles just to end up in the techie booth and, while his academics and extracurricular may not reveal it, carries with him an energetic innocence which likely brought him to the group in the first place.
A mobile homestead
Kyle was born in the great state of Mississippi, known for its river. This garnered him the nickname ‘Mississippi Kyle’ within the group, but Mississippi was only his temporary home. His mother, a flight attendant, moved the family around often as Kyle grew up and, to date, he has lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and California before he and his family moved to their current residence in Wisconsin.
“I’ve gone to more schools than there are technically grades up through college,” he said. “This has led to me being able to experience so many different regional cultures within the U.S.”
The constant movement for Kyle prevented him from fully planting his roots. Once acquainted with the social climate, the Praseut family would pick up tack and haul over to another place in the country they would try to call home. As a result, Kyle learned how to express himself more vibrantly—essentially learning how to market his personality efficiently enough to fit into his new environment.
“But the deeper set of solidifying friendship skills I never really truly developed,” he said.
A path forward
Working on an essay regarding the implications of virtual reality in the workplace, Kyle’s field of study is computers, a popular market in the rising tide of the digital age. More specifically, Kyle studies the process of engineering technologies including artificial intelligence and virtual reality. His hope is to one day work with top-technological companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, etc.
“Optimally, I would go into research for quote-on-quote cutting-edge technology, like A.I. and neuronetworks,” he said. “But most likely I’ll end up doing database management or be the lead engineer at a leading technology firm. Hopefully.”
In his dorm room, which he shares with another engineering student, is a computer tower, where Kyle plays games and works. It stands as a virtual centerpiece both to the otherwise messy aesthetic of a college guy’s dorm room and to the life of Kyle. The tower is the beacon to Kyle’s life—computers are what currently propels humanity and what Kyle wants to propel him.
Coming of age in adolescence is among one of the major thresholds people attempt to cross over in life. Kyle, despite his unconventional childhood, looks back positively on the experiences which ultimately culminated into him as a person today.
“It’s a good question to think [if I wished to have grown up a different way], but I think it’s a trap in of itself,” he said. “If you’re not truly happy with who you are, then that definitely influences your answer. I am happy with who I am today regardless of my flaws, because of all the trials and tribulations I have had to go through as a person. As long as I’m happy, that’s all that really matters.
“I would not wish I’d lived a different life, because I would’ve missed out on so many positive experiences that I feel people who stay in one place really do lack, and that’s not to say lacking that experience is making them lesser in any way, shape, or form—we all live and lead different lives. It’s just a core part of my personality that I would loathe to give up.”
Once the show goes and the lights come up, Kyle exits the booth at the heavens and walks down to chat with the cast and the crowd as they walk out. Conversations pop up across the room as audience talks to cast about the show and people pour out through the doorways. Eventually, the room empties and the lights come down. Kyle, satisfied with the direction his life, picks up a box of unsold merchandise and strides out of Gibble Auditorium, leaving a place he can call home.
View the video for this post here.
Emma: Hi! So what’s your name and your year?
Ryan: Hello, my name is Ryan Runkle, I’m a freshman.
E: And what is your funniest or most memorable moment here at Etown?
R: Um, I don’t think there is a singular one. I think my favorite moments at Etown are just sitting down here in the lobby with friends and having a good time.
E: So, nothing ever funny has happened or –
R: Nothing specific.
E: – something really memorable?
R: Not that I can remember.
E: Alright, well thank you!
View Stephanie Miller’s interview with Dana Morykan here.
View Samantha Seely’s interview with Kelly Armstrong here.