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After experiencing CCRI as homeschooled high schooler, Clarkin returns to finish degree

May 17, 2016

Abigail Clarkin Abigail Clarkin

New college students inevitably face a considerable transition period as they explore their autonomy. As a homeschooled student, Abigail Clarkin of Coventry knew a little something about being an independent learner – and also about the transition to college life at CCRI.

The seventh of nine children, Clarkin, 20, watched all of her older siblings, who also were homeschooled, take classes at the college as at some point during high school to get used to a college classroom setting.

Clarkin was dually enrolled at CCRI and in homeschool during her senior year of high school, and decided to continue on with her studies at the college, earning an associate degree in Liberal Arts with a major in English.

"When I graduated from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do," she recalled. "I liked CCRI – it had been a great atmosphere for growing, and so I decided to continue there."

Homeschooling put Clarkin at an advantage when it came to the kind of independent inquiry expected of college students. What's more, because there's a 20-year gap between her oldest and youngest sibling, she said she was well versed in how to interact with a wide range of ages. Still, she recalled feeling nervous on the first day.

"Being in a room with 30 other students is a little different," she said. "But I remember the first class I had was an Italian class with Professor Maria Mansella. She was willing to help if I had any problems. The transition was easier than I thought it would be; my professors were awesome and very willing to help with anything I needed."

Once she had conquered the classroom, the next item on Clarkin's agenda was finding a focus. Waiting for the magic moment when everything clicked, she found herself in a children's library on Cape Cod during a break from classes, and things fell into place.

"I always knew I wanted to work with kids, and I love reading. I'm obsessed with reading," she said. "And I was just standing in the children's section and I thought, all I knew is that I wanted to work with kids and I wanted to work with books. And then I looked around and it clicked. To have a focus made things so much easier. I was relieved."

A Master of Library Science degree is hopefully in Clarkin's future, although she first must complete her bachelor's. She said she is waiting on letters from Boston University and Colby College and has been accepted at Simmons College and the University of Rhode Island. And while she waits to find out what the next step will be, she is enjoying reflecting back on what made her CCRI experience so special.

"The biggest part of coming here and really growing as a person has been taking risks," she said. Running for chapter president of Phi Theta Kappa was a prime example of stretching out of her comfort zone. Though she lost the election by only one vote, she eventually would become president. "It's been a really big growing point with regards to leadership and becoming a team member," she said.

Honors projects and tutoring in the Writing Center have helped bring her love of learning and teaching to new heights, she added. One of her projects was chosen for presentation at the prestigious Northeast Regional Honors Conference, where she spoke on the importance of incorporating reading into all stages of life as part of a project titled "The Lifelong Migratory Journey of Reading." And the Writing Center has given her a taste of the rewards that might lie ahead in the teaching profession.

"It's really inspiring to see how hard the students work and how they are willing to ask for help," she said, adding that learning to ask for help and take advantage of resources here have been an integral part of her journey here, too. "It's been very humbling to see that even though I may be good at writing, there's a lot of things that I still don't understand."

One final source of inspiration for Clarkin is her family. She said that when she marches across the stage with highest honors – she is graduating with a 3.82 GPA – it will be largely because of their support and guidance. "They have been my tutors, inspirations and fan club throughout the whole journey," she said.

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Last Updated: 8/25/16