As the youngest child of three, in a family of five, I have grown up each day with mentors by side. My sister, Mary Kate McAlister, and brother, Rob McAlister, grew up in Charlotte, NC with our parents Lib and Mark. Whether I was going to an older siblings’ soccer game or traveling to Linville, NC, my life has been defined by the experiences I have had with these four.
Recently, after my brother’s marriage, I’ve been able to welcome my sister-in-law, Katherine Hanks McAlister, into this special group of people who have such a profound effect on my life. Through my experiences growing up, I have learned to love music, a cool morning coffee on a porch, the hidden water hole tucked away in the mountains, and the next great adventure on the trail ahead. These five have taught me the value of two or more people coming together in community. Without the encouragement I have been given from these five through the years, I wouldn’t be who or where I am today.
I spent my summers in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains at Camp Rockmont for Boys. As a camper and staff member, I developed a better understanding of respect: for myself and others, the value in shared experience, an appreciation for the natural world, an increased sense of self-confidence and -reliance, and how to live a faith-centered life.
During the spring of 8th-grade, I tried out for the Track & Field team and took up distance running. Quickly finding that I excelled at the sport and with a growing sense of love for the time I spent on runs, I continued my running career on into high school with both Cross-Country & Track. Running taught me how to persevere in moments of weakness and frustration, and furthermore to celebrate instances of incredible strength that helped open my eyes to my own drive and mental resolve.
In my early years, I spent kindergarten through 5th grade at Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School. Following 5th Grade, I began attending Charlotte Latin School for both middle and High School.
To the surprise of extended friends and family, I become the 5th of 5 to enroll at Sewanee: The University of the South. With my Rob having been recently hired at the University Lay Chaplain, and Mary Kate entering her Senior Year, I began my time at Sewanee with family all around.
In May of 2017, I graduated Sewanee with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, carrying me minors in Chemistry in Religion. During my four years on the Domain, I competed on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams, and I got involved in Sewanee’s entirely student-run Emergency Medical Service. In later years, I sought after election to the University Honor Council and Chaired the Council during my Junior and Senior Year.
However, Sewanee was much more than all of these things for me. Sewanee is and always will be the collections of friendships made, relationships built upon, waterfalls jumped off of, trails hiked and ran. Sewanee is where I and so many others learned to find out more of who they really are. Sewanee is where I learned to ask big questions and to not back down from seeking out the answers. Sewanee is where I became an EMT, it’s where I did PRE, it is who I traveled with to Ecuador and Costa Rica. Without Sewanee, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to ask myself the questions that my Watson Year has grown out of.
As a freshman at Sewanee, I joined an evening class that would culminate in receiving our Tennessee IV-Therapy (AEMT) License and our National Registry Basic EMT License. As a result of participating in the class, I was eligible to try out for Sewanee’s student-led Emergency Medical Service (SEMS). In March of 2014, following rigorous medical and trauma practical examinations, I among three others were named as the new members to the service. For the following year, I served as a Basic Life Support Unit to the student body, faculty, staff, and surrounding community. While on call for one week out of each month, teams of three wore pagers to be prepared at a minutes notice. Alongside our trusty ambulance, 418, SEMS served the community for over 40 years until recent state legislative changes and resulting administrative decisions caused the dissolution of the service we knew. Although my time as a Volunteer EMT ended during my sophomore year, the memories of what it meant to serve a community in such a way remained. The images of my time on the service, the countless hours of training, the calls we responded to, and the bonds our crew made while working together will always be with me.
It’s hard to say goodbye to something you care so much about, something you have invested so much time in, but as anyone comes to learn, change happens. My lasting memories created ongoing curiosity. Every helicopter flying overtop our campus, every ambulance seen passing down University Avenue kept my thoughts flowing, and as a result, I kept asking questions. Ultimately, these questions are what pushed me to apply for a Watson.
Find out more about my project: where it came from and where I hope to see it go in the next section titled “My Project!”