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A small-town girl from Bellevue, Michigan, junior Marah Heikkila couldn’t wait to shake her roots. However, after one semester at a larger school away from home, she decided it wasn’t the right fit for her.

“I wanted to leave my small town originally, but it turned out my home was here at Olivet,” Marah said. “I was very happy to come back.”

Home Sweet Home

Since then, Marah has become involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities, built incredible relationships with her professors and expanded her friend group quickly. The English major claims she wouldn’t be able to have these experiences anywhere else.

“I think one of the big things was that as soon as I transferred here, I hadn’t had a professor care as much I wanted them to,” Marah said. “Laura Barlond-Maas, associate professor of English, got to know me, and that’s why our relationship is so strong here. That hadn’t happened before.”

Marah has her sights set on a master’s degree in literature, and Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer, Ph.D., professor of humanities, has been instrumental in helping her prepare.

“Meetings with Dr. Hendershott-Kraetzer have been incredibly valuable,” she said. “He’s gone the extra mile to get me into grad school. His effort has been tremendous. It’s been very hard and very difficult, but amazing at the same time.

“I genuinely think Professor Barlond-Maas and Dr. Hendershott-Kraetzer have been helpful. It hasn’t been easy. They’ve given me some tough feedback. But they have made me feel good about writing and good as a person.”

Marah is expressing that same mentorship herself with students at the Student Success Center. As a tutor, Marah works regularly with students seeking assistance with both short and long-term assignments. She tries to emulate the teaching styles of the professors she most admires and finds satisfaction in watching students grow. Her experience tutoring has further solidified her dream of teaching.

“The most rewarding part of tutoring is seeing my tutees become proud of their work, seeing them grow and seeing them become confident with their work whether it be after one session or multiple ones,” Marah said.

Breaking Out of Her Shell

This summer, she’s looking forward to a trip to Japan led by Mike Fales, director of service learning and campus ministries and assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies. One day, Marah hopes to return to Asia to teach English as a second language. Along the way, she plans to publish her writing, much of which includes poetry.

Marah recently read her poetry at an arts and culture night. She also recently spoke at the Founders’ Day ceremony and is slowly breaking out of her shell as she approaches each new public speaking opportunity.

“I think before I came to Olivet, I wasn’t as confident as a writer and as a person,” she said. “But when I came here, I felt like I belonged. I had professors who helped with my work and helped me grow. I think I value myself and my writing and my relationships more than ever before.”

To learn more about Olivet College, contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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