Hello, Utah students! My name is Miles Schaffer. I am a StepUp Ambassador, first-year student at the University of Utah, a Utah native, and lover all things this state has to offer. I spend my summers hiking, biking, and rock climbing, and I spend my winters trying to stay warm. I’m passionate about learning and hope that my story might inspire you.
My educational journey started when I was a young kid who luckily had an amazing older sister who loved to learn. My sister would come home from school ready to teach me about all the things she learned that day. She was in first grade when I was starting preschool when she asked her teacher if she could bring home extra copies of assignments to share with me. Some days it would be math. Some days it would be writing. Whatever the subject, she would help me with every single one. At first, I wanted to be just like my big sister. I looked up to her and wanted to be just as smart as she was. As she taught me more, I grew to love learning solely for the sake of learning.
“My educational journey started because people cared about me and taught me what I needed to get started, but this journey would not continue if I did not take charge of my education. I encourage you to do the same!”
Thanks in part to the love of learning my sister passed on to me, I was able to participate in a “magnet” (or accelerated) learning program throughout elementary school and loved it! I had a lot of close friends and continued to grow my love of learning throughout my time there. However, some problems arose when it came time to go to middle school. The transition out of the accelerated environment and into middle school didn’t work out well for me. I stopped enjoying my classes as much and became disruptive. I had a few friends and didn’t try hard to succeed or learn. My parents began to notice this about me and were quick to recognize that something needed to change. We began to look for other options and found out about a charter school opening up a few miles away from our home. I enrolled there for the remainder of the year and thanks to an understanding and helpful principal, was able to skip 8th grade and start right into high school.
After a year in this new environment, my love for learning had returned. In order to succeed at the charter school (the American International School of Utah), it was necessary to take charge of my own learning. No one was forcing me to do my assignments or hounding me to get them turned in on time. Instead, I had to learn how to pace myself and be proactive. This was challenging at first. My year in middle school had made me lackadaisical towards school and I wasn’t prepared for the new challenges that faced me. Thankfully, I hadn’t lost my competitive drive and I was ultimately pushed to succeed at that school by my peers.
“My one piece of advice for future college students is to not let opportunities pass you by.”
At the end of my 10th-grade year, one of the counselors at the school mentioned an opportunity provided through the local community college called Concurrent Enrollment (CE). I had heard of CE but never seriously considered it until then. Enticed by the opportunity to gain college credit while still in high school, a close friend and I spent some time that summer enrolling for CE classes and together we prepared to start taking college courses at Salt Lake Community College. I loved being at the college. When I was enrolling for my second semester I realized that I would be able to complete my Associate’s before I graduated high school if I took a summer semester. I decided to pursue this path and was able to complete my Associate’s of Science alongside my high school diploma (as valedictorian) in May of 2018. I began classes at the U of U the following September.
My one piece of advice for future college students is to not let opportunities pass you by. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of opportunities to help me get where I am today. Not everyone will have those same opportunities, but everyone will have opportunities of their own. College is an opportunity to grow, learn, and have fun. College is also difficult, but the rewards are well worth the effort. My educational journey started because people cared about me and taught me what I needed to get started, but this journey would not continue if I did not take charge of my education. I encourage you to do the same!