Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2017

BEAT OF A NEW DRUM Chris Freeman played drums in his frst band at 13 and spent the next decade dedicated to that dream, dropping out of high school and practicing four hours per day, fve days a week. But by age 27, Freeman and his wife, Kim, knew it was time for a change. He entered Mercyhurst interested in a military career, but because of his age decided on criminal justice. Suddenly the student who wasn’t engaged in high school was getting straight A’s and staying after class to chat with professors. “I didn’t get good grades in high school, but I didn’t care,” said Freeman, who graduated in May 2017 with a 4.0, earning the Criminal Justice program award for overall achievement and the Sister Catherine McAuley Award, the highest academic honor given at MNE.

The father of fve children ages 2-11, who plans to pursue a position as a police ofcer in South Carolina, found the attention a little embarrassing. “Just do it,” he said. “There’s people that make excuses and there are people who make their future.”

Julie McBryar will play for the Saints basketball team while studying to be a respiratory therapist.

3-POINTER For Julie McBryar, an incoming freshman and women’s basketball player, Mercyhurst North East was a swish for three important reasons. Academics. “The Respiratory Therapy program has a proven track record of job placement and allows me to go to school fast, efectively, and learn what I need to learn to go out into the workforce and help people,” said McBryar, 18.

Chris Freeman (right) says he channeled the same determination he used to practice for hours as a drummer to achieve a 4.0 at Mercyhurst North East.

POSITIVE PATH AFTER LAYOFF It was hard for Jasmina Hadzavdic to imagine that getting laid of could be a positive. But now after spending a year in the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Mercyhurst North East, she’s excited about where her life is heading.

Campus. McBryar knew MNE was for her the moment she stepped foot on the grounds.

“One of the things that was so appealing was how small the program and classes were,” said Hadzavdic. “I didn’t want to get lost in a big program.” Here she has the support, she said, with professors who set you up for success, and go above and beyond, running study sessions and getting to know their students. “Being laid of was like a reality shock not to have a full-time job,” she said. “It was scary to think I didn’t have the skills to get another job at the amount I’d like to make.” Now with a 4.0 for the spring semester, that initial fear of failure from the shock of getting laid of is just a distant memory.

“I got to campus and thought: I have to go here,” said McBryar, who graduated in a class of 72 from Cochranton High School in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Prior to the visit, she had planned to go to college in Pittsburgh and was worried about the size of the city and campus. “I loved how small the MNE campus was,” she said. “It was really welcoming. I didn’t want to just be a number.” Athletics. McBryar was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing basketball, softball and volleyball. So being able to fnd a campus that allowed her to combine both her academic and athletic passions was important. “I’m excited to play,” said McBryar, who led the Cochranton basketball team in rebounds and with an average of 15 points per game helped contribute to the team’s going undefeated and taking the region champ title. “I knew it would be hard to do sports because respiratory therapy is an advanced program. But I’ve always used sports to make sure I’m on top of things. It helps me be an all-around better person and student.”

“This has been one of the best things I have done with my life,” said Hadzavdic, 31, who qualifed to receive the full cost of tuition through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program funded through the U.S. Department of Labor. “It’s going to get my life in a better direction.” Hadzavdic, who as a girl moved to Erie with her family from Croatia, has always had an interest in therapy. “I always saw physical and occupational therapy as a very uplifting and positive step toward recovery,” said Hadzavdic, who has observed family members during therapy sessions and would like to work with older patients in a skilled nursing setting. Just as she was immediately drawn to the occupation, Hadzavdic knew Mercyhurst North East was the right place for her.

After a job layof, Jasmina Hadzavdic is on her way to a new career as a physical therapist assistant. 17

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