Want inspiration? Meet Shaunna.
Shaunna Searfoss was always a good student. In fact, the Goshen resident graduated high school a year early, in 2004, and headed straight to higher education at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Three years into a dental hygiene degree she found herself pregnant. Searfoss moved home, transferred to IUSB and started over, almost, with her degree: not because of the move or her new daughter, but because an elective course in women’s and gender studies lit a fire within her.
While bartending to pay the bills, she studied her new major part-time. A second daughter was born in 2007. Then, in 2011, her stepfather passed away. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” she remembered. That’s saying a lot, given the fact that a few months later she was diagnosed with a type of thyroid cancer.
After taking a semester off to navigate chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Searfoss finished her degree. She graduated in May 2015—two months after her third child was born.
“My goal was always to graduate. I wanted that for me,” she said.
She also wanted it for another reason. “If my kids come to me and say they can’t do something, I can say, ‘look at me. If I could do this, you can do whatever it is, too.’”
Searfoss is now engaged. Three month after her last chemo treatment she and her fiance discovered she was pregnant with her third child, Zayne. She is grateful for the help of her parents, as well as that of an academic advisor who “pushed me through it. She kept me going.”
“It was rough, but I wouldn’t change anything,” she reflected. “It’s made me who I am.”