“The highway winds me through the vast, beautiful mountains. The fog is lifting and is resting just above the tips of these WV hills. Topping each peak are the windmills that the sun is elegantly illuminating. This breathtaking moment is my every day as I drive onto the campus of Davis and Elkins College.”

These words are from the beginning of an essay written by Maryssa, a 27-year-old mother and wife who is a first-year student majoring in nursing at D&E. Her words throughout this essay are both eloquent and insightful. What is readily apparent is that this campus, for Maryssa, represents the means to achieve a dream and fulfill her vocation.

During a recent visit in my office, Maryssa granted me permission to tell her powerful story. This young lady shared her journey … including both the valleys and the mountaintops of her young life.

A native of Grafton, West Virginia, Maryssa married at a young age and had a child. Beaming as she talked of her son, she described the slow realization and eventual confirmation that her child was autistic. Reflecting on her life, Maryssa freely admits to making poor decisions in her adolescence and early adult years that led to hardship and heartache. Her unhealthy marriage led to drug use and temporarily losing custody of her child. For a time, her moral compass was lost, and her priorities badly skewed. Maryssa’s life journey took her to a deep and dark valley.

During her time in that valley came a moment of insight. There was more to life than what she was experiencing, and she owed it to her son to become the mother he deserved. Transformation began, and Maryssa’s journey began a slow and steady climb out of the valley of despair.

With refreshing candor and fortitude, Maryssa eloquently described the path to redemption. Leaving behind those influences pulling her down, she credits renewed faith in God with setting her on a positive path and providing an inner strength. Soon came a loving and supportive man into her life who shared her values. Eventually marrying, her young son now experiences a nurturing home. Maryssa journeyed from the valley to the mountaintop.

In spring 2021 Maryssa saw a social media ad for D&E. She applied and was thrilled to be accepted into the nursing program. Initially worried if she could afford a private college, she has been very pleasantly surprised by the affordability of D&E thanks to generous financial aid. She speaks glowingly of the caring faculty and nurturing environment on campus. Her dream of becoming a nurse is centered on her desire to help others and provide meaning to her life in the process. What became clear to me was that Maryssa understands her vocation in life and is responding positively to God’s call.

Maryssa concludes her essay, “Do any of these people know what they’re missing? The town’s people, old and new, do they realize that this institute tucked into the hillside has such great values and fascinating history? I roll down my windows and take a deep breath of that fresh mountain air … Of all the things I have chosen to be, I am most grateful I decided to be a Senator!”

So are we, Maryssa!  Together, with you, our journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College