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May 2, 2014
By Rachel Sielaff, media relations assistant
Gabbi Ray wasn’t set on attending college until a program at her school helped her prepare for the future. This spring she graduates from Northwest Missouri State University with a degree in merchandising with a business minor.
“I probably wouldn’t be in college if it wasn’t for College Bound St. Louis,” said Ray, a graduate of University City High School in St. Louis. “I was really busy in high school and going to college wasn’t something that crossed my mind that much. College Bound St. Louis changed everything.”
College Bound St. Louis helps students prepare for the ACT, educates them about financial aid and provides them with a college coach. Students involved in the program also attend a summer camp, various events and college tours.
One of Ray’s college tours brought her to Northwest.
“I fell in love with the campus as soon as I saw it,” Ray said. “I loved that the campus wasn’t overwhelming and huge. I felt at home and ready to become a college student.”
At Northwest, Ray took advantage of opportunities presented to her and stayed just as busy as she was in high school. She became a residential advisor, a member of the Northwest Dance Company and a member of Speaking Bearcats, Northwest’s forensics team.
“Unlike a lot of the students in Speaking Bearcats, Gabbi didn’t have any forensics experience in high school,” said Brian Swafford, instructor of communication at Northwest and advisor of the forensics team. “She is incredibly talented and utterly fearless when it comes to performance. She is a natural performer. She creates vibrant dynamic characters and fills the room with her personality.”
Ray encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities offered through clubs and organizations on campus, reflecting on how she joined the forensics team after attending a showcase. “I was completely blown away by the talent I witnessed,” she said. “I told myself I wanted to learn how to do what they did, and I did exactly that.”
Last year, she was a state and national champion in the category of Program of Oral Interpretation. This year, she repeated as state champion in the category and placed fifth in the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament.
“Winning state two years in a row was a great feeling,” Ray said. “It was almost a feeling of relief because it let me know that the hard work I put into memorizing lines and getting different characters down in my pieces actually paid off.”
Although Ray is graduating, her time at Northwest isn’t finished. This fall, she will attend the University as a graduate student, working toward a Master of Business Administration degree.
“I don’t want to get stuck in the mindset of being content with being average,” Ray said. “I want to be great and keep my mind on the right track. I’m going to graduate school because I want to further my education. I couldn’t see myself doing that anywhere else but at Northwest.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468