Sarah's Science Degree

When I was a child, my fundamentalist Christian curriculum taught me that evolution is untrue and the earth is only 6,000 years old. When I left homeschooling, I was far behind my peers in math and sciences. I resolved to change this, and I did: by reading books  and taking classes, I fell in love with biology and science writing during my first year of community college. I continued as an English major for another year before realizing I desperately wanted to study biology and officially changing my major when I transferred into university.

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Today, I am passionate about science writing and communication because I've experienced firsthand how becoming science literate can change your life. And over the past few years, I've been recognized with awards, internships, and travel fellowships - including the National Association of Science Writers' prestigious undergraduate science journalism travel fellowship. All this happened while I attended community college (maintaining a 4.0 GPA), working various jobs (including a position with my school's honors program), and moving to another state to put space between myself and my dysfunctional family situation.

My family situation and background in science denial is the root of the problem. I cannot accept support from my parents for school because they are manipulative, controlling, have abused me in the past and prevented me from pursuing my degree. Every day I struggle with symptoms of OCD stemming from the anxiety and depression I developed from past trauma related to the dysfunction and psychological abuse of my family. This adds yet another level of stress and difficulty to being a working student.

For the past few years, I have put myself through school in pursuit of a degree in a biological science while writing about my experience growing up in a community that distrusts science and medicine. As an LGBT woman in STEM, I am everything my religion taught me is "wrong" and "sinful". I continue to call out my former religion for its problematic beliefs and prejudices, such as in my popular Medium essay, "The Cult of the Christian Woman" and an appearance on Australia National's Science Friction radio show. In addition, I write articles about feminism in STEM  and advocate for equality and inclusion through my Twitter account. I have also been blogging about popular science books on my website Read More Science for over a year.

Now that you understand my background, let me explain why I need your help: 

I am currently a sophomore transfer student at Oregon State University. I was accepted into their degree partnership program with the local community college, where I hope to enroll in my lower-level math and science courses while taking my upper-level science writing courses at OSU. I'm a little behind on credits, but after just one year of the partnership program, I can be enrolled full-time at OSU and finish my degree after another two years.

The issue is that I need to work part-time outside of school to help my fiancé pay our bills, which means I cannot accept the work-study portion of my financial aid package, as the money goes to tuition instead of essential living expenses.

Without work-study, this leaves me with an additional $3,000 per year I will have to cover with loans. With 3 years left to my degree, this increases my projected $12,000 in loans by an additional $9,000.

That's $1,000 per quarter x 3 quarters a year x 3 years left.

It's not a lot. But it's enough to set me back, and my partner and I would be immensely grateful for the relief of this particular financial burden.

I am attempting to raise this amount in order to prevent further debt so I can justify remaining enrolled in school rather than return to the workforce. My current plan is to go back to work full-time and delay my degree in order to avoid further debt, and because money is so tight (I don't want to dip into our small emergency fund, just in case our 1996 car decides to finally break down). The problem with this plan is that it also delays my ability to start my career in science writing, or pursue a graduate degree. It's disheartening to think that after four years of work, I'm still so far from being a full-fledged science communicator.

I have been blessed with the support of wonderful mentors and cheerleaders who have helped me in countless ways along my journey toward my bachelors. I feel that continuing school, succeeding in my classes, and graduating would be the best way to thank them for their time and efforts to support me. With your help, you can help make it possible for me to graduate by or before the spring term of 2023.

In addition to this GoFundMe, I am applying to multiple scholarships, including the Science Ambassador Scholarship for Women in STEM. If and only if I am fully funded, I will accept the donations and enroll full-time next term. I will also look into either freelancing as a science writer on the side or getting a weekend position to pay the bills.  I know this is a long shot, but we would need to reach the funding goal before Dec 1 in order for me to enroll full-time next term.

Getting this degree matters to me. I'll be the first and only woman in my family with a college degree. I believe science is for everyone, and my dream is that in the future I can help more young women afford the education they need to pursue a STEM career.

Tl;dr - former Christian homeschooler seeking science degree without family support, considering withdrawing from school due to tuition expenses.

My promise to you
It's hard asking for financial help, and frankly, I want to make it worth your time to donate. So, to thank you for contributing and assure my supporters where their money is going, I want to make the following pledge:

1.  If I reach my fundraising goal, I will remain in school full-time. If I don't reach the goal, I will put the money in a college savings account and stay enrolled part-time in college, and use the money when I go back full-time to OSU.
2. I will share my progress and updates on readmorescience.com and through my newsletter in the interest of transparency, so you will know how I am doing in classes, how close I am to graduating, etc.
3. Finally, I will be actively writing about science and practicing science communication during my time in school

Thank you for your support!

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Organizer

Sarah Olson 
Organizer
Corvallis, OR
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