2020 Scott Wright Student Essay Contest Winner Jennifer Harrell

Jennifer Harrell photo

2020 SEC Winner
Jennifer Harrell

2016 SEC Winner Paloma Marinelarena

From Uncertain to Unstoppable

Beginning my journey at East Central College was a scary task.  My first class in over 18 years was a Chemistry lecture. I got to school early, very excited, and then promptly sat in my car for 45 minutes because I was terrified to be the oldest person on campus and uncertain of whether I still possessed the academic fortitude of my youth. With that fear still rooted in my gut, I went and planted myself on the first row. In walked the professor, Dr. Matthew Monzyk. He had a welcoming personality and his passion for Chemistry came through in his teaching. After that class, I realized that I could handle Chemistry and college. He took time to ask questions, to read facial expressions, to break down difficult topics, to really care that we understood. I made it a habit to go to office hours and he took as much time as needed to help me with my questions.  Because of Dr. Monzyk’s enthusiasm for Chemistry and his passion for helping his students “get it” and thrive, I was inspired to major in Chemistry, specifically Biochemistry. With his time and dedication, he helped me overcome the uncertainty and fear that was holding me back. He inspired me to become an unstoppable force to continue my education and pursue my dream.

My first semester was riddled with personal struggles. My husband got laid off in Tennessee and I had to drop everything in Missouri and go pick him up. It put me behind in homework and made me stressed about finances. Afterwards, I was at school early catching up and Dr. Monzyk saw me. He stopped by to see if I needed help and to encourage me through that struggle. The fact that he took the time to encourage me through that and to check on me really made me appreciate him even more. He took time to see and encourage the mom and wife Jennifer, not just the student Jennifer. 

Dr. Monzyk has not just inspired me. He has made an impact on my children as well.  Once I came in for help on a particularly tough concept before finals. I had to bring my eldest son, age 13, with me. After ensuring that I had the concept concrete for the upcoming final, he asked us to follow him to the lab. He prepared a quick solution to show my son a fun concept and let him conduct it. This 5-minute time period made a huge impact on my son. He is shy and unsure of himself, and Dr. Monzyk took the time to show him something fun. Now, almost 2 years later, he still remembers that and avidly pursues science and aspires to be a vet. He also hopes to begin at East Central College and study Chemistry under Dr. Monzyk.

Without Dr. Monzyk’s belief and encouragement, I would not be graduating with Honors this May and continuing to pursue my dream.