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Shelby Ballard

Motlow biology major hopes her fervor for learning spreads to others

by Shane Levan, Staff Writer

By the time a traditional college student begins their first semester, most are entering their fourteenth consecutive year of school. It is understandable that some lose sight of the tremendous educational opportunity that college provides. In fact, many high school graduates are just not ready to begin college.

Motlow College sophomore Shelby Ballard knew it would be a mistake if she started college right after she graduated Siegel High School in Murfreesboro in 2008. She didn't think college was right for her at the time, but after a few years away from the classroom, the biology major now attends Motlow with a fervor for learning.

"Looking back and seeing myself at 17 years old, I was not ready to go to college," said Ballard. "I was not mature. I was just ready to get out of school and work and establish my grounds."

Shelby Ballard While she has always been an involved person, active with the theater department and the dance team during high school, she describes her pre-college self as being an average student who did not take education as seriously as she does now. She started working as soon as she was legally able and did not really focus on school.

"I've had a few jobs in the restaurant business since high school," continued Ballard. "After high school, I was pretty much on my own; that time was really a growing experience for me."

She continued working in the food service business and eventually became a manager at a well-known Mexican restaurant in Murfreesboro.

After a few years in the waitressing world, Ballard started to realize she was not fulfilling her potential. She did not like the idea of working in a restaurant when she knew that she could have a career more suited to her interests. In order to have that career, she knew she needed to finally go to college.

"Two semesters ago, a friend told me that I needed to get out of this world I was in," said Ballard. "I realized this myself when I was making drinks for people and they were rude to me. I thought to myself that they probably have no idea how much I make an hour.

"I didn't want to continue to have that uncertainty of what I'm going to make," continued Ballard. "I don't want to be a manager in a restaurant for the rest of my life."

Ballard, understanding the seriousness of education, researched several colleges and discovered that Motlow offered her the best chance to succeed.

Shelby Ballard "I didn't want go to a school that was too big," said Ballard. "The idea of that was just scary. The thought of Motlow came up because my grandmother was a part of the first graduating class of Motlow's nursing program, and my cousin graduated from Motlow as well."

Motlow facilitated her transition to academia, serving as the proverbial right-place-at-the-right-time in Ballard's life.

"I did my research behind it all," continued Ballard. "Attending Motlow gives me a chance to get my foot in the door while also being affordable and I'm thankful to our government for offering the Pell Grant because it helps me remain debt free."

Upon enrollment, Shelby decided to pursue her passion for, of all things, viruses.

"I was thinking about going into the nursing program at Motlow, but I prefer the research aspect of the medical field," said Ballard. "I just like the idea of researching viruses and diseases. My grandmother passed a couple years ago from multiple sclerosis and that also sparked an interest in studying diseases."

Ballard attends class with a new appreciation for academics, and her self-described 'nerdiness' carries over to her everyday life.

"Coming into college, I wanted to study virology and/or epidemiology," added Ballard. "I'm very interested in epidemics and I listen to NPR every day. Right now, they're always talking about the Ebola virus. I'm such a nerd when it comes to learning about viruses."

Like the viruses she studies, Ballard hopes that her fervor for learning will spread to others.

"One of the best decisions in my life was waiting to go to college," said Ballard. "Now I really appreciate the opportunity much more than I would have when I was younger."

She plans to graduate from Motlow in December 2015 and continue her education in biology and/or virology or epidemiology.