Austin Stone
Johnson City, TN

I'm Austin Stone and I'm one, one of Tennessee's Best.

When I was looking at colleges, I wanted to be a professional pilot. My grandfather is a corporate pilot in East Tennessee, so I grew up around airports and airplanes. I guess the love of flying comes naturally to me. My granddad always had some sort of prop plane or jet around. We would spend hours up in his planes, flying through the skies. When I was little, when my grandfather took me up, I was always in the back seat while he flew. But at Middle Tennessee State University, I knew I would be able to sit in the front seat to pursue my aerospace degree, with a pro pilot concentration. I looked at other schools but thought our aerospace program was the best for me. It is definitely rated among the best in the southeast, if not the country. MTSU has an established reputation in the aviation community and that meant a great deal to me when I was selecting schools. MTSU fit my needs best.

And it still does. However, I decided to change my major to International Relations, with minors in Special Education and Spanish, after spending several summers working at a camp for special needs kids and adults. But I am still flying high. For the past few summers, I have worked as a camp counselor at Clemson University Outdoor Lab Jaycee Camp Hope and Camp Sertoma. Camp Hope is a residential camps for mentally challenged people eight years of age and older. The camper experiences life in the outdoors, learns to work and play in a group, and gets the whole summer camp experience. Camp Sertoma serves children between the ages of 7-13 who are either underprivileged or who have speech/hearing impairments. Like Camp Hope, it offers outdoor experiences, fun, skills development, and education. The programs are accredited by the American Camp Association and are designed to offer campers opportunities they won't get any where else. Our amazing staff care for and lead campers in a variety of activities like overnight camping, archery, canoeing, swimming, arts and crafts, drama, and sailing. I have the opportunity to be both a counselor and a sailing instructor at both camps. Thanks to those summer experiences, I found my calling.

While I will always love to fly, my passion truly lies with these special people like those at the Clemson camps. Ultimately, I'd like to affect global policy as it pertains to those with special needs. And with the education I'm receiving at MTSU, I know I will have the skills to do just that. In everything that I do in and out of the classroom, I've committed my life to helping special needs kids and adults. And changing my major was much easier than I expected. Everyone was helpful and made the transition to my new educational path a smooth one.

To gain experience in my new chosen field, I have volunteered for the past year at Project Help, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide early intervention services for high-risk children or children with developmental delays and to help empower their parents through education and support services. I am also about to start a nine-month internship at the World Youth Alliance in New York City. There, I will help organize and begin implementation of a three-year strategy for increasing the membership in North American in conjunction with the online training and leadership development of Certified Committee Members. I will also have the opportunity to travel internationally with delegations. My recent travel to Europe and the Middle East will certainly be of benefit in my new role.

In order to help fund my education, I earned the Discover Card Tribute Award Scholarship. The award, though based also on grades and test scores, is given to students who demonstrate accomplishments in community service and leadership and who have faced a significant roadblock or challenge. The scholarship has certainly made going to college easier for me and my family. I am able to study more, be more involved on campus, and really spend time being a student.

And MTSU is a place to be. Classes here are taught by professors who are readily accessible to me when I need them—they are in their offices or available via e-mail. And the professors have pretty high expectations for their students. We are here to learn, that's pretty clear. We have great facilities, amazing computer labs, a wonderful library full of information that you need, when you need it. We also have a pretty awesome athletic program—football, basketball, volleyball. And it's all right here in the middle of campus.

And there are many opportunities for campus involvement. We aren't just in class or studying. There is usually a lot of student government stuff going on, pick up games of basketball at the Rec Center (or just about any other sport you're into), student organizations to join, people to meet. There really is something for everyone on campus. There certainly is for me, I feel as if I am really getting the most out of my college experience. And, best of all, even though I am no longer an aerospace major, I still feel that I'm in the pilot's seat of my educational career at MTSU. I know where I want to go and how I want to get there.

Come join me. See how far you can soar at MTSU.