Council scholarship recipient Grace Caine began her college education this fall at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She studies instrumental music education, plays the alto saxophone as well as piano and hopes to return to campus this spring. Grace talked to Council Writer Lynn over winter break from her home in Lowell, Wisconsin.
Lynn: What are some important lessons you learned your first semester of college?
Grace: We were able to have classes on campus until Thanksgiving and although I was a bit nervous at first, I really enjoyed it. Being out on my own for the first time, I liked the independence and learning to be my own person.
For me, finding a balance was an important lesson. I found out how to not just focus on schoolwork, but also to spend time with friends and take care of myself.
Lynn: What did you learn growing up that helped prepare you most to go away for college?
Grace: I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) when I was three years old and growing up, my parents and eye doctor really pushed me to advocate for myself. That means thinking ahead and planning whether you need to ask for something in advance. Often, you can’t get what you need if you ask on the spot.
I was shy growing up, and in high school I realized that you just have to do it.
When I went away to college, this meant reaching out to the Center for Disabilities on campus and talking to professors ahead of time to make sure that I was understanding what was happening, seeing the board and the materials. I also needed to talk to random people and my friends because my parents weren’t there to read a sign or help me with a menu.
Everyone has just been amazing! I am grateful for all my friends’ help and my professors who are always trying to find better ways of doing things.
Lynn: Have you been able to play music during your first semester?
Grace: I was able to take classes in my major right away and was part of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band on campus, which was fun.
In addition, I played a saxophone duet. I love classical music and was able to play a classical solo which is one of my favorite things to do.
Lynn: What are some of your future goals?
Grace: While I am focused on college, music and spending time with family right now, I’d like to get some experience with student teaching.
I would also like to travel. I’ve been to Mexico with family and to Germany and Belgium with my high school German Club. Someday, I’d like to go to Italy, where the saxophone was invented. And, I hope to visit New York City with the UW-Whitewater Symphonic Wind Ensemble which performs every other year at Carnegie Hall.
Lynn: What has living through the COVID-19 pandemic taught you?
Grace: A lot of people have struggled with productivity, either feeling like they can never do enough or being unable to do anything at all. I’ve learned that you have to take time and relax a little bit and find a balance when there is nothing separating different parts of your life.
This is something I continue to work on right now. I am trying to write out a schedule where I make time to practice, do schoolwork, plan downtime and trying to get to bed at a decent time.
2021 scholarship applications will be available in February. Visit the Scholarship & Awards page to learn more.