An Open Letter from a High School Graduate

I was a big fish in a small pond. My school’s class sizes and individualized teaching affected my confidence levels and ability to be myself. There was a strong sense of learning for learning’s sake, and that by putting individual worth into something we might find meaning in it. For example, I was handed a saxophone on the first day of 7th grade, so I could learn to play music. Without much guidance, I taught myself the instrument, and others, in the ways I found best. Always, I was given the responsibility to learn on my own terms. And I found interests in all sorts of things.

Still, I can’t remember not listening to music all the time. My brothers would give me mixed tapes they had handpicked; I’d listen religiously. Then I got my first laptop at the beginning of high school and it had a recording application. I started making mixed tapes for others and eventually making my own music. It seemed to be the only way I could explain how I was feeling. With all of art, there is a part of the inexplicable. A good friend of mine, Evan was kind of in the same boat – we were both looking for an arts lifestyle once we left high school. We weren’t really in that environment yet. He influenced me the most, as being a friend and someone going through the same thing. We bounced off each other a lot.

In our school’s group discussions, some people hadn’t found their passions yet and couldn’t contribute to that conversation. They didn’t know what they wanted to do. I think the search starts with looking at anything you really like to do. Genuinely. You can’t find it by trying to be anything you’re not. I struggled with that a lot. I used to “try hard” for a long time. I would exploit myself to make friends. I’d compromise who I really was in the face of others. Eventually, I came to terms with who I was and started protecting my dignity and personal strengths. To find those strengths, you can step back and look at those things that really make you happy. If you’re doing math problems and it’s making you happy, I’d say maybe you were happy in finding concrete things and answers. Sometimes passion is pigeonholed as something artsy – but you can have a passion for talking to people or hosting events. Passion is widespread. It does require you start believing in yourself as soon as possible.

Surprisingly, picking a school didn’t have much to do with music. It had to do with the place, the environment. My top choice was Ohio State University to study business and communications, while doing music in the city. I ended up not getting into that program, so I reevaluated my choices. I’d applied to music schools in Chicago, Nashville, Boston, and Cincinnati, and I looked for the environment that would allow me to do things individually. Didn’t matter as much what the program was but more what my resources would be.

Now the fear is I’ll end up going there and it won’t necessarily be what I thought it would be. But that’s a fear that deserves to be overcome. If I go with expectations, I’ll happily discard them for reality. I know what I’m getting into isn’t exactly what I think it will be and I’m open to that. My high school had an immersion project where you spent several months in one study. One option was an independent immersion where you crafted an experience and proposed it. Junior year, I picked jazz piano and spent two months going back to doing lessons, even though I’d taken them years before. I wanted to really learn how to play, and it was difficult. It reminded me of all the work that goes into pursuing a dream. That dedication eventually has to kick in.

When I was looking for colleges, I could never explain what I was searching for. There was this force driving me to look for a certain environment or to visit colleges’ Facebook pages and see what kind of people were talking and how they talked. Turns out, MARV was the exact description of what I was truly looking for. Although I was already almost across the bridge from high school to college when I learned about MARV, it definitely made me feel more at peace with my decision to go to Columbia College. It gave me a unique confidence for what’s ahead.

Alex Small HeadshotAlex Heaney is an 18-year-old life-enthusiast who believes the word ‘passion’ comes with too much baggage nowadays. You can get in touch with him @HeanWolf and check out his music at and



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Beneath the Madness

Dayton, the city and the University, has waited 30 years to experience this moment in March Madness. The passion, the history, the last second shots, the upsets, the bracket, the pride, the pep-bands, the emotions, and the one shining moments – we’re a part of it all. And we’re the ones with the glass slipper.

The media’s attention to a Cinderella team is amusing, as it focuses on how the team’s streak will impact future enrollment or donations. I agree the wins benefit the institution, but something greater is happening that deserves more discussion: the mix of pride and excitement throughout the city, student body, and alumni that is producing some of the happiest moments of our lifetimes. And I can’t help but notice MARV in the Madness.


This year’s team fully represents the best of what the University of Dayton stands for: learning, leading, and serving. There is no superstar on this team. Selfless is the first word that comes to mind when you watch this team play. They are united in a mission greater than themselves and you can visibly see this in their play on the court.


Just like anything worth having, this has not come easy. Their story is so inspiring because of its grit, persistence, and resilience – and these players have overcome and performed like true champions. Going 1-5 to start the A-10 had most of the Flyer Faithful, including myself, pondering another season of mediocrity. This team didn’t, this tweet from Devin Oliver says it all:

Oliver Tweet


The picture of what went down on Saturday at the University of Dayton is worth more than a million words. The thrill of being united together on campus was captured by UD junior, Natalie Kaufman:

“There were chants, strangers holding hands saying prayers, and literal tears in people’s eyes as Dayton came closer to the win. As the seconds on the clock grew smaller, we all grew more silent. 4…3…2…1…buzzer goes off and UD students go wild.

I have never in my life experienced such a rush of excitement than I did when UD won the game and made it to the sweet 16. Minutes after the win, students gathered in unison in the streets of the student neighborhood and celebrated as the community that UD is.  I am currently living through my university making history, and I have never felt more proud of where I go to school and to call myself a Dayton Flyer.”


Flyers across the country experienced some of their most heightened and enlivened moments when the buzzer sounded on Thursday and on Saturday. Whether at home with family and friends, on campus in Dayton, or in the stands in Buffalo, time stood still for a few hours, maybe a few days, as we soaked up the positive emotion of our university’s special moment.

Carson Scheidler, a junior at UD put the excitement into perspective:

“Within 30 seconds of the finale, our shoes were on and we joined the stampede of students heading toward the center of the student housing (“The Ghetto”) to Kiefaber Street. It was as if suddenly time itself had frozen and the only thing that mattered was coming together as one student body to celebrate the achievements of our university. A brief two minutes went by with the police trying to keep us off the streets, but the overwhelming feeling of pure happiness overtook us, and the streets soon were completely filled with everyone jumping up and down, performing the popular Seven Nation Army chant.”

MARV is another word for happiness. Happiness, especially on a Cinderella run, is what I believe is the greatest gift the NCAA Tournament evokes in the purest of forms. I’ve always wondered what it was like for George Mason, VCU, Butler, and the list goes on.

University of Dayton, enjoy this MARV moment; it’s shining and has been a long time coming!






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Calling All Writers

Calling all bloggers, writers, and any other people putting words to paper! We want to hear about your happiest moments in college.

Your most meaningful experiences?
Unique accomplishments?
Influential relationships?
Times of feeling fully alive?

We believe a thriving student has found Meaning, Accomplishment, Relationships, and Vitality (MARV) somewhere in his or her college experience. If you found MARV in college – whether you’re a current student or an alum – you should share your experience with high school students! You may inspire another student toward happiness and success in college. Which sounds like a simple way to make a super impact –

And it is! Students learn from students. Why not let them know what you know?

Start the conversation here.


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