Kalilah Chears is a human development and family sciences major from Rockford, IL
Hometown: Rockford, IL
Year: Expected graduation: 2025
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
The majority of my financial aid was from NIU. I have a merit scholarship, two grants that are specifically for students in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences, a scholarship provided by NIU alumni and the University Honors Program, and a housing waiver from the Huskie Marching Band. Outside of NIU, I received the Illinois Map Grant, the Federal Pell Grant and scholarships from local organizations like Rockford Promise, the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and the Rockford Association of Minority Management. These scholarships were awarded to me due to my academic excellence, extracurricular involvement, leadership, first-generation student status and community service.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
Music was something I always wanted to pursue professionally. I played viola throughout grade school, participated in marching band and taught myself how to play bass guitar and piano. Though I am not majoring in anything music related, I still incorporate music into my college experience. I am in the Huskie Marching Band Color Guard and sang in the University Chorus last semester. I also create my own music that I hope to publish soon!
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
I’m majoring in human development and family sciences with an emphasis in family social services, and I’m minoring in sociology. I chose this field because of the careers in social work. I was most interested in becoming a victim advocate or family/couple therapist. I like the idea of being a client’s emotional support through healing and progress, which is the main objective of these jobs.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I was slightly worried about the on-campus food options, but it’s been a lot better than I expected. The cafeterias have a variety of choices every day that taste really good! Also, retail places like Starbucks, Qdoba and Einstein Bros. Bagels provide more delicious options.
How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I like to exchange social media with the students in my classes, my residence hall and the clubs I’m in. I also make Outlook groups to exchange notes and help others with homework.
Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
The most notable extracurricular activity I’m involved with is the Huskie Marching Band Color Guard. I loved being in marching band in high school because it was a way for me to relax, stay involved with music and meet new people. So, when I heard NIU had a Color Guard team, I was really excited! I love performing at halftime, marching in parades and cheering for the football team with them. I look at the Color Guard as my second family, and I can’t wait for our future seasons together!
What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you succeed? And how?
The University Writing Center has helped me a lot throughout my first year. I had to learn a new citation style and different essay types that were difficult for me to grasp. The tutors at the center not only helped me understand these concepts, but they also gave me more confidence in my writing ability and new ways to proofread my papers.
What Honors Program opportunities or support have helped you get closer to your academic or career goals so far?
The Honors academic advisors have been a valuable resource during my time at NIU. With the additional requirements for honors students, it can be difficult to understand everything I have to do in order to graduate with honors. Attending the consistent advising meetings and discussing my schedule in detail really helps me know exactly what courses and extracurricular activities I have to do.
What do you enjoy the most about the Honors Program?
I like the smaller classes that Honors courses provide. It helps me connect more with my professors and the content.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
One of my favorite instructors is Prof. Mary Lynn Doherty, my university chorus teacher. I felt a little overwhelmed when I joined because I had no prior singing knowledge. However, she made sure that her students understood the material and provided helpful guidance, which made the experience so enjoyable. This class helped me build my confidence and reintroduced me to musical performance after a hiatus caused by the pandemic. If I have another opportunity to sing in the choir, I’ll gladly take it!
How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
When I go to class consistently, I find it easier to retain the information I learn and maintain a routine. I am also able to understand the content and gain better connections with my professors and peers.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot on campus is the Holmes Student Center. There are so many things you can do there: study, eat dinner, play pool, go bowling and much more. I love hanging out there with my friends.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
I would advise listing the things that are most important to you and finding colleges that have those attributes. Think location, extracurricular activities, cost of attendance, school type, school environment and similar aspects. It’s okay if some schools don’t have everything you want; you may have to sacrifice some attributes for others that are more important to you. I also find it helpful to read the course descriptions of the required classes for your major in the university’s catalog. The more the classes intrigue you, the more likely you’ll be invested in the class, and you won’t be bored during your academic career. Lastly, find a college that best fits you! Don’t go somewhere that doesn’t seem right for you just because someone said so. Community colleges and trade schools are still great choices depending on your circumstances. The quality of your college life doesn’t solely depend on the college itself; it depends on what you make of the experience!
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
During high school, I had more time to do the things I found relaxing and fun. When I started college, I realized that it became harder to find time to unwind. I had to change the way I relax. For example, I took courses like university choir and bowling to integrate some destressing activities into my schedule. I also started to prioritize taking care of myself physically and mentally more.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I like to do anything involving music. Singing, making music or just listening to music. I believe that music has a therapeutic effect that helps me calm down and disconnect from the struggles in my life.