My Mentor, My Friend: Dr. Bonita Leavell

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Victoria Bankowski
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I sat in my first chemistry class and listened to my instructor talk about a former student she had given a letter of recommendation to. That student was accepted into all three of the Ivy League universities she applied to. From that point forward, I found myself dreaming of ways that I might land myself a spot in a classroom at one of the Ivy League schools. Whether it was a summer research program offered, or a transfer scholarship to complete my bachelor’s degree, I passed the time away trying to imagine ways I could turn this dream into reality. Dr. Leavell made me feel in my heart that I, too, could go to one of the top universities in the United States. I was inspired and set my sights on attending Johns Hopkins University (JHU).  It was because of the way Dr. Leavell spoke to me that I felt that I could transfer from my community college to an Ivy League school if I worked really hard.

Dr. Leavell inspired and motivated me to reach for my dreams and apply to transfer to a top school. She helped me realize my capabilities. Dr. Leavell taught me the importance of learning in a way that is smart and effective. When Dr. Leavell talked about her previous students, she was so proud and it was so great to hear about other students who were successful. I feel that it’s important to have a professor and mentor who shares examples and inspires students to go for their dreams. Dr. Leavell is a gem and she is one of the finest professors who taught at my community college.

Dr. Leavell is an inspiration. She encouraged me to succeed. She changed my mindset. I went from believing that I would never go to a top notch school to believing that I was as capable of attending an Ivy League. Especially when my professors gave examples of other students who were in my seat from years before. It was Dr. Leavell who turned my thinking around and inspired me.  She inspired me to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship to help me pay for an education that I knew that I could not afford.  I began applying to lots of different schools to transfer to.  In March, I received a letter stating I was selected as a semifinalist for the top ranked Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.  I realized that even if I don’t get selected for this prestigious honor, I am still a winner. I did not get into Johns Hopkins University. However, I was so excited to get into the University of Michigan Ann Arbor on a full tuition scholarship and doing very well.

I spent my life filled with self-doubt. It was Dr. Leavell’s belief in me that allowed me to understand and focus on the prize, along with helping me transform my insecurity into confidence and determination.

It is very important that students recognize their mentors.  Especially educators who go to work every day for the students benefit. There is not a day that passes that I don’t think twice about the impact she made on me. It is equally important that I tell her how important she was in getting me to believe in myself. Dr. Leavell, I want to say thank you so very much for the lesson you have taught me.  I will never forget you.   I will cherish the thought of you, in my heart for the rest of my life. I hope not to disappoint you, for you are such a very important determining factor in my success. Thank you!