Thanks to Kenyon and work-study, smart girl JoEllen Perry knows how to "work it"
W hile JoEllen Perry '96 says she had her heart set on attending Kenyon, she acknowledges that as the eldest of five children of a schoolteacher and a nurse the availability of financial aid was an important consideration. "To my great relief, the College was more than willing to be generous," she says. "Federal law governs much of what happens in a financial-aid situation but, despite constraints, the package I was offered by Kenyon was fantastic."
Perry's package included participation in the College's work-study program. "My first job was reshelving books in the library at 7:30 in the morning," she recalls. Perry went on to have a variety of jobs, some obtained through Kenyon's financial-aid office and some obtained through her own diligent efforts. Her jobs included typing labels for art-history slides, working in the audiovisual department of the library, managing a cooperative bookstore, reading to a blind student, driving a College shuttle bus, and serving as a house manager in one of the residence halls.
"Many first-year students end up working in the dining halls," says Perry. "There is definitely no glamour associated with that job, but it does bring you into contact with people from outside the campus community, and that can be very interesting."
Although she didn't know it at the time, Perry's various work-related experiences, and those of her friends, would eventually become a chapter in The Smart Girl's Guide to College, published by The Noonday Press in September (see the review in this issue of the Bulletin).
The book has twenty-seven chapters, each written by a female college student, addressing different aspects of college life, such as deciding between an urban and rural college, going into the Greek system or remaining independent, the role of sports, and the experience of attending an Ivy League, predominantly black, or religious institution.
Perry's literary career began when she received a telephone call from Cristina Page, the book's editor. "Cristina called English departments around the country and asked for recommendations," says Perry. "I was fortunate that my advisor, Associate Professor of English Kim McMullen, recommended me.
"The call came right when I was in the middle of writing my paper for my honors project, but since the book was in its embryonic stage, Cristina was willing to wait for my chapter, which I decided would be on work-study and financial aid."
More han two hundred and fifty students submitted chapter outlines to Page, who then selected what she felt were the best.
In her chapter, which is entitled "Work It Girl," Perry writes: "Work-studies are good because they keep a variety of skills active; they help you keep perspective in the pressurized arena of academic standards. . . . While college will be over in four years, and while you'll probably forget the specifics of most of the papers you wrote pretty quickly, you'll always need a job--and the skills of working hard at, and keeping, a job."
"What I felt," Perry says, "is that you become so immersed in academics at Kenyon that your entire notion of your skills and abilities comes from your evaluations in the classroom. When you have a job, you get a different appraisal of yourself and your strengths.
"At Kenyon, work-study is not really about helping you pay for tuition," Perry continues. "The program is structured so you actually get a check in the mail, which you can then spend however you need to spend it. I mainly used mine on books and pocket money. It gave me independence; it made me comfortable."
Perry, who graduated summa cum laude, won acceptance to law school before deciding to see what the world of work outside the College might have to offer. She currently works for Library Video Company in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, which produces and distributes educational videos. "As an English major, I specialized in adolescent literature," says Perry. "A lot of the videos I work with now are videos made from children's books."
Perry says she still has law school in the back of her mind, but she is also thinking about a career teaching in a secondary school. "Whatever work I do in the future," says Perry, "my work experiences at Kenyon will have prepared me to succeed."
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