After she failed a folklore test, Karah met with Carol Garber, her instructor, to try to figure out what happened.
“I was about to cry,” she said. “As a freshman, you think ‘I just flunked my first test, I’m going to flunk out of school.’ I told her I studied, I had notebooks full of notes, and a pile of notecards.”
They talked about what happened during the test — how the stress of having only a short time to complete the assignment made it difficult for her to focus, and how she was distracted by the presence of others in the room — and Garber made a suggestion that changed everything.
“Carol told me she thought I needed to go talk to someone in the accessibility center,” Karah said. “I was upset at first, because I thought she meant she thought I was disabled, but she said she thought I had test anxiety.”
After meeting with staff in the campus Career and Accessibility Center to discuss her challenges, she gained approval to take her tests in the campus testing center, with extra time. Since that time, she has not failed another test and is graduating in May with a degree in communication arts.
“The accessibility center has been a springboard for me,” the Tipton resident said. “It’s taught me that everyone has a struggle of some kind that you might not know about. You wouldn’t know to look at me that I’ve had struggles.”
Some of those difficulties have included a speech impediment, for which she received therapy from age 3 until middle school, and the death of her father when she was 8. Karah also has battled depression for many years, and wants to encourage others by sharing her success story.
“I’ve overcome a lot in my 23 years, and I am proud of how far I’ve come,” she said. “I have to wake up every day and fight it. I have to say every morning, ‘I can do this, I have to believe in myself, and I have to have faith in myself. I choose the path to get better, and the first step was admitting I needed help.”
She’s sought medical help for her depression, and also combats it through kickboxing classes several times weekly.
“There’s something about beating a boxing bag that makes me feel empowered,” she said. “I don’t fight to be competitive. I fight for mental strength, and to battle these challenges I face.”
In addition to taking tests in the testing center and having extra time, Karah worked with accessibility center staff to identify how she can learn most effectively. She now studies behind her closed bedroom door, with earbuds firmly in place, to block out distractions.
Looking back, she realizes she had the same difficulties in test taking in high school, and is grateful for the changes that have allowed her academic success in college. She’s been on the dean’s list, and will wear honor cords at Commencement as a charter member of IU Kokomo’s chapter of Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication honor society.
“I cried when I got that,” Karah said. “I never thought I would overcome this, and here I am, about to graduate. In high school, I just accepted that if I took a test, I was going to get a D or an F, even though I studied, and I never understood why. Looking back, I would say I struggled, but I never knew I needed assistance.”
She is grateful Garber recognized her need, and has remained close to her, even though she’s never taken another of her classes.
“She made me believe in myself more than I ever have,” Karah said. “She kept telling me she knew I could persist, and how she was proud of me.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana