I am Conner Sturgeon, and my story is one of growth from challenge and overcoming. Growing up in a rural, lower socioeconomic, single-mother household, you are not presented with many opportunities. Everything I did was something that I desired to achieve or earned through hard work and dedication. From witnessing and being apart of abuse, drugs, violence, and depression, I was able to find hope, strength, passion, and love. I graduated high school as an average student who was highly involved during those four years. I was in musicals, sports, clubs, and more, and maintained a job and slightly above average grades. From this, I was able to earn the 21st Century Scholarship through the state of Indiana, and that is what aided me to attend college. I went to the University of Southern Indiana and obtained my Bachelor of Social Work. I learned more than I could have ever imagined in the classroom, but what I learned through TRIO, Student Support Services, Lambda Chi Alpha, and all the other clubs and organizations that I was part of held more weight. It showed me dedication, service, and humility and furthered my ability to love others. This past spring, I graduated Magna Cum Laude into the world of COVID-19. I was fortunate enough to secure further education at Indiana University for a Master of Social Work program and a position in Residential Programs and Services as a Graduate Supervisor. Now, I am looking forward to my graduation date of May 2022 to continue my education and learning in the world and share what I have learned with clients and others.
The first struggle that I remember making me a robust individual was in early middle school. My parents had been divorced for around a year, and my mother became incredibly ill. As her health declined and multiple surgeries came and went, I was unsure of how to cope with this and the recent and disruptive divorce that my parents had. Wrestling became my outlet, and other sports followed. Then I discovered it was not necessarily the sport itself; despite them being great outlets for my emotions, it was also the people and the support that came with it.
Another struggle that has given me a better sense of self and determination was college life transition. In high school, I was surrounded by people; clubs, lunch, classrooms, wherever I was, there were also friends. In this small community, everyone knew everyone and probably of their business. Once I got to college, that immediately changed. I spent many days and evenings wondering why I was there and the point of it all. I did not have the friends or support that I had become so accustomed to. After sitting at my apartment one evening, I realized that I was the catalyst for evolving in high school. I pushed myself to be involved and found outlets of interest. This was when I discovered my first and largest support at college, my fraternal brothers whom I consider to be true family. This allowed me to push my boundaries and grow much broader than just this organization because I had a safety net of support behind me.
When my plane touched down in China, it all sank in heavy – I was scared, nervous, and in a way, alone again. I was with a couple of peers, but no one I knew incredibly well at the time. A few weeks earlier, an organization, the Cultural Clarity Experience, chose me and three others from my university to travel to China on a cultural immersion trip, and now it was time to get off the plane. It was like I had woken up in a strange new world that was ironically like what I had experienced and heard of in bigger cities. Ten days to go, explore, learn, feel, and discover in China and every minute of it was worth taking in. The days flew by, but what I remember most is that everyone is a human before anything else. This trip helped to shape and change my experience of how I see the world. It allowed me to travel the U.S. and Jamaica for different occasions, ranging from practicing social work with individuals in a foreign country to having the confidence to speak in front of large crowds on a dais.
The final event that I can remember giving me an immense amount of strength was applying to and moving for graduate school. When I was applying, I had no clue what the process was, or what the expectations were of my writing and experiences. Being a first-generation college student, I had no point of reference for graduate school. The most immense support I had was encouragement from my significant other and the supports I made at school. The thought of leaving them for further education seemed terrifying and made me reluctant to apply elsewhere. With their support and encouragement, I was able to do so. I completed the many tasks surrounding the various applications and was accepted into my dream school. The University of Washington in Seattle sent me a letter stating my admittance. As I said earlier, I am a graduate student at Indiana University due to the circumstances of COVID-19. However, I am still delighted in stating that I was accepted into my dream school, and am attending IU. The challenge of applying was difficult, and swallowing that I could not attend UW was hard, but the lessons of life that I have already been taught at IU are abundant and worth a lifetime of education.
First as a GlobalMindED First Gen Leader, and then as I was given the honor to be a GlobalMindED/ELE Ambassador, I have had many more avenues of professional exposure which I could not have imagined. At my undergrad, my horizons opened. After working with GlobalMindED on this project and a few others, I have made connections with individuals worldwide. I can ask questions, find different perspectives, and educate myself on all these possibilities that I once had no clue were there. The main thing that this Ambassador Program has reinforced is that I want to work serving others.
I believe that I would be the strongest candidate for any position because I am extremely dedicated to whatever I am working on. I want to see whatever that is through to completion. Also, I work not only for myself but for others. I want to help those around me through service, education, and sharing my platform. I also have a very optimistic outlook on situations, which helps whenever dealing with difficult problems in the workplace or challenge duties to overcome. Finally, I am eager to learn. I love learning and the challenge of it. If I am not sure how something is done, I am not afraid to ask because I get an education on something I am not versed in doing. This also helps me dive into tasks and work projects that I may not be the most experienced in tackling.
Flexibility, resilience, and the ability to adapt are things that I bring to the table that any employer can benefit from. I love a challenge in the workplace, and because of that, I have always sought them out. In doing this, I have learned how to hone these skills and apply them to any situation.
Once I have been hired into a position, I always seek out a conversation with my boss regarding the position’s work expectations and duties. In doing this, I can create a baseline of achievement for myself and how it will benefit the company. The baseline that I create is always a set of goals that I want to achieve while working. I strive to push myself to perform at the highest capacity that I am capable of doing.