Senior English major Sydney Santschi lights up every classroom she is in.
The joy Santschi receives through learning is infectious, and between her cheerful engagement with her classmates and her insistence on reading British poetry in a British accent, she appears to be the model of the successful student. In many ways, Santschi is, but like any student, her journey has been fraught with adversity that she has struggled to overcome.
Santschi has had a winding path to TWU, and her challenges date back as far as she can remember: “I grew up in an abusive household… horrifically abusive… and my high school had to hire a very special kind of crisis counselor to work with me and help me formulate a way to get out of the house.” The plan they came up didn’t work out, leaving Santschi homeless at one point. Even though her school would send taxis to shuttle her back and forth, she was late to school regularly and often even later getting home. “It was just a gigantic mess,” said Santschi, “I realized that I was struggling . . . my aunt and uncle, who live in Flower Mound ,decided to take pity on me and brought me down here.” Santschi would eventually finish high school, attend a community college in Flower Mound and later transfer to TWU.
Unfortunately, Santschi’s struggle didn’t end with her arrival here. “I’ve experienced the loss of someone who was very close to me, my partner, and I’ve fought cancer twice, albeit early stage cancer, but it’s been rough. . . one of the biggest mistakes I made was waiting until it was too late to seek help,” Santschi said, “I waited until the circumstances in my personal life were almost absolutely insurmountable before I asked for support.”
Santschi’s eyes trailed off into the horizon as she reflected on these memories, and, as is typical of her demeanor, she transfused her thoughts into her care for others. She offered some advice as she thought of her classmates: “You have to roll with the punches as they come in life and not let any impediment prevent you from completing your goals, especially your academic goals . . . do it for yourself and don’t give up. Don’t let anything prevent you from meeting those goals. Don’t quit, even when you want to. Get yourself out of bed. Hold yourself accountable. Surround yourself with supportive people who are fighting the same fights that you are and recognize that you are not alone and that there are resources that are available to you.”
Her time at TWU has helped Santschi forge her path onward, and it continues to help her overcome the adversity she faces. “I want to believe that my presence here is meaningful . . . I want to be loved; I want to be accepted. This is my safe place; this is my place to express myself and be around people who can help me, and I can help them [too], and it’s really fulfilling. It gives my life meaning. I see what our professors are doing and I want to be a Dr. Bender; I want to be a Dr. Fehler; I want to be a Dr. Casper; I want to be a Dr. Busl,” said Santschi.
Santschi is already well on her way to achieving that goal in the eyes of those she looks up to. Associate Professor of English Dr. Vivian Casper said “Sydney embodies the traits that teachers value in students: she is highly intelligent, thoughtful, well spoken, super-conscientious, appreciative of high standards, interesting and interested in important things, ethical, and courageous in her personal and intellectual life. She achieves her goals at admirable levels. . . she greatly enriches the classes she takes with me.”
Santschi doesn’t need to be hopeful that she’ll achieve meaning in her life; she needs only to take a look around her classrooms. The impact she’s had is evident everywhere, whether she can see it or not.