Student Success Story: Taking the long way to graduation yielded personal growth, valuable insights for Chase Voight
Winona Daily News, August 22, 2021
Chase Voight graduated this spring from Minnesota State College Southeast with high honors, majoring in Sales Management.
But his pathway to a degree wasn't always a direct one.
He grew up in Pittsville, a small town in the heart of Wisconsin. His parents instilled in him the belief that you should always be kind to others and take care to present yourself well.
About his home town, Chase said, "Don't blink If you're driving through - you might miss it!"
When he was nine years old, his parents got divorced. His mother made sacrifices to provide for Chase and his older sister.
"We lived in a small, two-bedroom apartment, and my mom gave the bedrooms to my sister and me," he said. "Meanwhile she slept on a mattress in the living room. Here she was, a single mom to two kids, while putting herself through college for medical coding."
He kept up a close relationship with his dad, going to Brewers games, snowmobiling, playing basketball, and getting together to do yard work.
Up to his senior year in high school, all was going well. He played football and basketball and sang in choir and show choir.
But then everything came crashing down.
In the first football game of his senior year, Chase blew out a knee. He tore both the ACL and the meniscus, a serious injury that would require multiple surgeries and months of recovery. To make matters worse, he was hospitalized for a staph infection.
In the midst of all this, his father died, following an 11-year battle with three bouts of cancer. Chase retreated to his bedroom, gripped by severe depression.
"I hid my feelings and didn't really tell anyone about it," he said. "I didn't talk to anyone -- I just wanted to be by myself."
Stripped of his identity as an athlete and grieving the loss of his father, it took a long time to heal.
"I was thinking that I would give up on going to school altogether, but my mom encouraged me to apply for college. She walked me through the whole process."
By that time, Chase's mother was teaching medical coding at the nearby technical college in Wisconsin Rapids. Chase enrolled there for fall semester, while his best friend went further away for higher education -- to Winona State University.
Visiting him, Chase made many friends in the Winona area. He transferred to Minnesota State College Southeast for spring semester, then enrolled at the university for a couple of years before ultimately returning to MSC Southeast.
"Maybe I was bouncing around, but I was trying to get a better understanding of who I was and what my values were," he said. "I really believe there is too much pressure for students to know exactly what they are going to do right away. A lot of kids fail and drop out and feel like a failure."
At Minnesota State College Southeast, Chase felt valued.
"The words I use for Southeast are Friendly, Family, There for You. #MSCSoutheastCares is not just something they say here!" he exclaimed. "I love Southeast -- the people here will help you with anything."
Having graduated and finished an internship in Admissions at MSC Southeast this summer, Chase is excited to start at Winona State University in the fall, where he will major in psychology. Besides earning a bachelor's degree, he has two additional goals in mind: to go out for the men's basketball team, and to enhance the role of eSports at the university.
Further in the future, he is aiming high: to qualify for Air Force officer training school. A background in psychology -- and insight gained by personal experience -- will be an asset to him going forward.
"I have come to value mental fitness over physical fitness. It shows a better understanding of who you are and how the opinions of others don't matter," he said. "At the end of the day, you are your own biggest cheerleader or critic."