Ella Schuellerman’s Senior Column: Unexpected people and unwritten chapters

Ella Schuellerman, Arts & Life Editor

Ella’s final editorial, giving thanks to the people and unwritten story that shaped her into who she is today. (Ella Schuellerman)

June 16, 2017. It was the last day of my freshman orientation. I was nervous to attend a morning church service all on my own. My parents left that morning and I wouldn’t see them until later that day. I felt alone and unsure of what to do next. Literally, should I go grab Starbucks or Einstein’s?

Funny enough, the rest of my time in college felt just like that morning. Uncertain and unwritten. 

But on that June morning, something really special happened. It was one of the many magical moments I had on this beautiful campus. Instead of attending that service, I chose to grab my comfort book I had stuffed into my overnight bag and sit in an Adirondack chair on the main quad. 

“The Great Gatsby.” It was both familiar and dazzling — an illusory dream and story that brought me comforting wanderlust. My crutch book. As I began to reread it for the seventh time, a man in blue washed jeans and big-framed glasses approached me. 

“It has been years since I’ve seen a young person so peacefully sitting outside, without their head in their phone. Why on earth are you reading right now? Who are you, a student?”

I softly chuckled to myself and told him about my favorite book; it was how I wanted to spend my morning that day. I introduced myself and he exclaimed a big, “Why hello, hello Ella! It is so nice to meet you.”

I never had Andrew Welki as a professor, but I like to think of him as my first friend at John Carroll. 

Even four years later, Dr. Welki and I always say hello to each other and check in. He even has an autographed Carroll News poster I signed with a Sharpie back in 2020. His unexpected goodness and support is one of many examples of John Carroll’s community of people who look after one another. 

As a freshman, I worked one semester at the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, at the same time Program Coordinator Selen Zarrelli began her job there. She may not remember me well, but to this day I am in awe of the kind spirit who was more than ready to make an impact on each student she crossed paths with. 

Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Ann Hanicak is another example of a person who will do anything to help others. Her very job is to elevate, protect and guide students. She worked with me through one of the most difficult obstacles of my college career. I would not be the strong-willed woman I am without her courage and support. 

Two individuals I know will always push me onward on are Tom Bonda and Doan Winkel. Their impact on my experiential learning and success within the Edward M. Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship is immeasurable. They want nothing more than to watch all of my peers thrive and make the impossible, possible. I have no doubt I will continue to ask these two for advice throughout life — I just hope they are ready for me to continue to chat their ears off after I graduate. 

I could continue to list off amazing people to prove my point, but anyone who has a connection to this beautiful university knows everyone takes care of their neighbor, their coworker, their professor, their coach, their teammate, their peers and all the strangers in between. 

John Carroll people hold the door for everyone, even if those people are waltzing 15 feet behind. We serve others. We celebrated together and we mourned together. We stood together when the world faced the pandemic that put a pin in our campus’ ability to physically be there for one another.

What scares me most about graduating is that path is still uncertain and unwritten. The hesitation I had on June 16, 2017 does not apply to the college experience anymore. I am quite certain I will have to deal with uncertainty all of my life. 

I think I am okay with that now, though. 

I never knew I could meet professors who would do everything they could to help me succeed. I never knew I could live abroad all on my own and make best friends from all over the world. I never knew I could check writing a book off my bucket list before I was 22 years old. I never knew I could find friends that I hope my future kids will call Aunt and Uncle someday. 

I danced my heart out at 17 concerts. I met Detective Elliot Stabler at Oxford Circus train station in London. I attended the Tory Burch Foundation Embrace Ambition Summit in New York City. I traveled to Ireland during their worst snowstorm in 50 years. I competed in entrepreneurship competitions. I jumped into the Dead Sea in the dead of winter. I was inducted into an honors society for the first time. I lived on my own for the first time.

During my time at John Carroll, I found my strengths and worked on my weaknesses. I found courage in the roaring face of adversity. I found a whole lot of purpose. 

All of those college students out there who have a few years left, remember the butterflies you feel deep down in your belly are actually good. They are full of that strength and courage and purpose. 

If I could tell my spry, naive 18-year-old-self one thing, I would remind her that life is pretty much always going to be unwritten. It’s messy, unpredictable, difficult and joyous. 

Not knowing the next chapter is no reason not to immerse yourself in the beautiful page you are on today.