Dakota Willis '13 had dreamed of attending William & Mary long before she was accepted for admission. Childhood trips to the beach always guaranteed a stop in Williamsburg for sandwiches at College Delly and a walk through the sun-soaked Sunken Garden. "William & Mary is prestigious and challenging, yet small enough that I feel like I really matter," she says. "I'm not just a number in a sea of thousands of students."
In addition to its reputation and size, Dakota was moved to attend William & Mary because of its deep sense of community and family-like feel. "I think it is obvious that students care about other each other and want everyone to stay safe and healthy," she says. "I know how similar my values are to the values of other students at William & Mary. We all come together to support a student in need, and I can't imagine another campus that feels more like a family."
Students are not the only members who define the William & Mary family. Faculty members work one-on-one with students to help them be successful. Educational Psychology Professor George Bass worked closely with Dakota, preparing her for work with elementary school students.
The mentoring that Dakota has received from School of Education faculty like Professor Bass is complemented by a classroom experience, which prepares William & Mary students for a complex and ever-changing world.
"We don't just discuss hundred-year-old theories," she says. "We talk about gay rights, racial inequalities, immigration policies, and gender inequalities. If I hadn't been informed about these issues, and we had not discussed them in my classes, I would not be as prepared to go out and work toward social change."
The William & Mary family extends well beyond campus. Without the generosity of alumni and friends through private gifts, Dakota, a scholarship recipient, would not have been able to attend the College. Gifts to the School of Education's Fund for Excellence ensure that she, and other aspiring educators, are being well prepared for the classroom.
"I encourage anyone who is able to give, to seriously consider doing so," she says. "Without your contributions, students who love William & Mary — students who dream of coming here and changing the world — might be unable to do so because of the financial burden. Financial status should not be what prevents a deserving student from achieving his or her greatest potential in life."
Today, Dakota sits on the steps of the Sunken Garden soaking in the sun like she did as a child, confident that she is well prepared for the next leg of her life's journey.