How many college campuses are there, do you suppose, where students in a residence hall throw a retirement party for the woman who’s been doing the housekeeping?
Trish Cellemme suspects it’s a small number. And she believes this act of kindness provides a striking example of the high level of caring and connection that defines life on the Sage campus.
“At most places,” she says, “the cleaning person is totally unknown. But there’s a different culture at Sage. Ask any student about our assistant director of public safety and they’ll know him. Because he knows them, and knows their names. And the same thing’s true of housekeeping, foodservice and secretarial staff. The students know all these people care.”
Trish is vice president for student life. She’s also served as dean of students, associate dean of students, and director of student services and residence life.
And she’s a Sage graduate, who has worked here since 1997. Why did she come back? Why has she stayed another 23 years? Her answer is one and the same: “Because this is a special kind of place.”
The special quality, Trish believes, is the ability the Sage community has to transform lives. She remembers back when she first arrived on campus as a shy young woman and left feeling strong and assertive.
She came back precisely because she wanted to pay it forward, to help others become their fullest selves. The question Sage taught her to ask was: “How do I give of myself, based on what I’ve been given.”
Sage had given her belief in the power to change lives for the better.
A tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic and its social distancing requirements, Trish says, is how seniors and the rest of the Sage community are not able this year to celebrate the graduation ritual together.
“This is harvest time for us,” she says. “This is when we usually see the fruits of our labors.”
This is obviously a labor of love.
“I know we make a difference in the lives of our students,” Trish says. “Sure, there are those who might have succeeded anywhere, but we have students that I know, had they gone somewhere else, would not have been successful. And that makes the work we do that much more important. We have forever changed their lives, and the lives of their families and children to come.”
There are many ways Sage works at making students feel connected, heard, and valued. But Trish speaks of a single, abiding, shared concern: “We want to make sure that every student can have a soft landing here somewhere.”
Maybe it’s a sports team or club. Maybe it’s being an admissions ambassador, Mentor Group or CSTEP. Some place, some activity, some person makes it clear that, “There is a soft place for you to land.”
“What our students come to know here,” Trish says, “is that, ‘There are people here to help me.’”
As she was helped.
As she landed in a place she’s never wanted to leave.