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Making the Leap to College and Finding Community

April 29, 2022

Sierra Jarmon

Area of Study: Biological Sciences, Pre-Health

Sierra Jarmon has taken a long and winding road to get to graduation, but when she reflects on her path and academic journey, Jarmon is unwavering in her gratitude for ending up at UNC.

Growing up in the small town of Falcon, Colo., just outside of Colorado Springs, Jarmon, a self-proclaimed introvert, was able to stay inside her shell. Even though she attended public high school after being homeschooled, college was still a shock for her. Jarmon had attended community college while in high school and landed at UNC, attracted by its smaller class sizes and campus culture.

I wanted to be a part of a community that was not very large, but big enough for me to engage with professors and other students in order to learn and apply my knowledge to real-world problems,” Jarmon said.

A biology major, Jarmon was struggling to keep up in the pre-requisite science classes in her first year as a Bear. Having never taken AP classes in high school, she joined UNC's LEAP program (which stands for Learning Through Engaging and Authentic Practices) to help with her studies.

LEAP is a year-long program that provides first-generation students majoring in pre-health biology or chemistry with academic and social support during their first year. The program offers academic advising and workshops, as well as connections with past LEAP scholars, financial and life advising and community engagement.

“The LEAP program, tutors and cohort were super helpful,” Jarmon said. “Being introverted, I wasn’t just going to go up to people and ask them if they wanted to join a study group, so LEAP was perfect for me and so helpful in giving me the support I needed.”

Jarmon also found support on campus from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national campus Christian ministry, that proved to be crucial for the time ahead. In September 2018, Jarmon’s sister passed away. One of the leaders from InterVarsity drove from Greeley to Colorado Springs to attend the funeral in support of Jarmon.

“It was the most devastating event to have ever happened to me and my family,” she said. Jarmon took a few weeks away from school to be with family. When she returned, she was so behind on classwork and still impacted from the loss of her sister that she considered dropping out of school completely.

“My classes were quite difficult, and I struggled to grasp a lot of the material,” she said. “The pain of losing my sister was just too great for me to concentrate and focus on other things around me. But with the help, support and prayers of my academic advisor, Emily Holt, my professors, and my campus friends from InterVarsity, I was able to pass my classes and finish the semester."

"I wouldn't have been able to do it without them.”

Needing a change of scenery to recover and heal, Jarmon spent two years studying at Colorado State University (CSU). “After that time, I knew that UNC was the right fit for me and I’m so happy I came back,” she said. Since returning for her senior year, Jarmon has been upheld by her advisor and professors.

“Even after I transferred to CSU and came back to UNC for the 2021-2022 school year, Emily has given me the best advice for graduation and encouraged me that I could achieve my goals,” Jarmon said. “She took the time to sit down with me and make multiple plans for my education journey in case something didn't go according to plan.”

Her family's support was an immense part of her success at UNC, she said. “Without their love, encouragement and support, I would not have had the strength to carry on with all the obstacles I've faced on my academic journey. No matter what day it was, my mom and dad have always been available for me to vent as well as celebrate the academic successes I've had at UNC,” said Jarmon.

Regardless of the trials other students face in their time at UNC, Jarmon encourages them to keep going. “If you're struggling academically, mentally or physically, do not be afraid to reach out for help. There are so many resources and people at UNC that are specifically trained to help with various issues that many Bears go through,” she said.

“Keep your relationships with your family, friends and loved ones strong. They will be some of the biggest supporters you'll ever have,” Jarmon said. “And most importantly, trust God no matter what. Your plans may not always go according to how you wanted them to, but rest assured that everything happens for a reason that shows the glory of God and how He has worked in your life!”

After graduation, Jarmon intends to take a gap year before applying to veterinary school.  

-- written by Laura Veith 

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