Humanities 101 student now studying psychology

You can lose all you’ve worked for all your life, in a second. It happened to Toni Boss. A serious car accident in May 2012 suddenly robbed her of the ability to cope with everyday life. Her successful career in human resources was put on hold, indefinitely.

“The first year, I just worked on healing physically,” Toni said. “But I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and in the summer of 2013, something just triggered me. I went downhill very quickly.”

While attending group therapy sessions to deal with her suicidal thoughts, a psychologist suggested that she consider enrolling in the Humanities 101 program at St. Mary’s University. Toni was skeptical at first. How could a program providing free university courses to people experiencing poverty or homelessness help in her situation? “I honestly didn’t understand how this could be therapy, but I had no hope. I needed guidance, so I listened to the psychologist’s advice,” Toni said.

Three weeks after first contemplating suicide, Toni found herself on the St. Mary’s campus, sitting in a classroom where — amazingly — she felt at home. “I cried every class,” Toni said. “I was struggling to let go of who I was before the accident and embrace the person I was becoming. Humanities 101 was a safe place to figure it out.” Her classmates — many of them with their own serious hurdles to overcome — were patient with her.

“I got teased about the crying,” she remembers, smiling. “As soon as I sat down in class, people would hand me tissues. But it was safe in the sense that I wasn’t judged and we encouraged each other.” Her studies became her anchor. “I had lost so much of myself, but with the support of the amazing people on this campus, I have regained my confidence. I have purpose and focus, I am setting goals again, and I have hope.”

Toni is still waiting for medical clearance to return to work. But thanks to the generosity of the Campbell family, she is now an undergraduate student at St. Mary’s University. Toni is one of five recipients of the Campbell Family Bursary in 2014. The bursary was created to help students from the Humanities 101 program transition into formal degree studies. Without it, Toni could not afford to enroll in our four-year Psychology program, where she is pursuing her dream to help others. “It sounds so weird to say, but I know I am meant to help people,” she said. “Once I overcome a challenge, the first thing I want to do is reach out and help others who may be struggling too.”

Toni Boss was struggling to recover from a serious car accident when she was referred to Humanities 101, a program at St. Mary’s University that provides free university-level courses to people who have experienced barriers to learning. With support from the Campbell Family Bursary, she is now enrolled in our Psychology degree program.