Student Speaker Learns New Meaning of "No"

Published on May 30, 2017

Three years ago, Eastern Kentucky University student Kelsi Peters was questioning if the major she had chosen was right for her. Her studies were not coming as easily as she had anticipated. She was worried she had failed, that she had seen the end of one of her lifelong dreams. She felt the universe telling her “No” to everything she wanted to do.

In the midst of this chaos, Peters called to mind the words of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,  aerospace engineer, educator, and former president of India, who spoke at EKU in 2010. “If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means First Attempt at Learning. End is not the end. In fact, E.N.D. means Effort Never Dies. If you get no as an answer, remember N.O. means Next Opportunity.”

Peters took those words to heart, took a risk, and most recently, took a home degree in something she loves even more. Peters graduated cum laude on Saturday, May 13, with a bachelor’s degree in physics teaching and presented the student commencement address for the College of Science.  

From her early childhood in Pennsylvania to her time at Solon High School in Cleveland, Ohio, Peters always knew she wanted to teach.

However, following her freshman year of college, she faced a difficult, potentially life-changing decision on her academic direction. By coincidence or fate, she was also taking Physics for Teachers at the time. She recalled that at the beginning of the semester, the teaching assistant for the class, a physics teaching major, suggested that Peters consider teaching high school physics. Of course, she merely laughed it off at the time.

By the end of the course, Peters had fallen in love with conceptual physics, and was eager to learn more. She followed her TA’s advice and changed her major.

“There were times where I felt like I was failing at life and had no idea where I belonged,” she said. “But, with my professors, my adviser, and my cooperating teachers’ guidance, I took the opportunities presented to me.”

Peters has many opportunities still ahead of her, as she has already landed a job teaching freshman science at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester starting this fall.

It’s not exactly what Peters expected when she began college, but she couldn’t be happier. She wants other students who may be in a similar position to know that “there will be something out there. You will find your place, if you keep learning, keep putting in the effort, and keep looking for new opportunities.”

As she begins her new teaching position and studying for her master’s degree in education, Peters knows more obstacles await her, but, just as before, she is prepared to work her way through them.  

“When we give everything we have into what we want to accomplish, when we push and push and push to achieve, our efforts pay off. Maybe not immediately … or the in the way we expect, but they will always pay off.”

And that quotation from Kalam? Peters has already printed it, laminated it, and is prepared to hang it on the walls of her first classroom, hoping it will inspire another generation of learners as much as it did her. 

-- by Yasmin White, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management