Cindy Ely’s essay published in the newest edition of
“Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive”
For St. Mary-of-the-Woods College
At 63 years old, Cindy Ely never thought she would have a publicist.
But then again, she never thought she would be a published author either.
After nearly three decades of working in education, it’s hard for Ely to believe that this month marks the release of her first official work as a professional writer. The Greenwood native’s essay has been published in the newest edition of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive.”
Ely’s piece, called “Boost to My Confidence,” is based on achieving her lifelong goal of obtaining her college degree. The wife, mother of four and grandmother of 12 began college after graduating from high school but dropped out when she got married and started her family. She made a promise to herself and her late father that she would go back eventually. It took nearly four decades, but in 2007 she graduated from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Ely said going back to school was intimidating. She searched for a program that would allow her to juggle a full-time job and family and be an easy transition for someone who hadn’t taken a traditional college course since her early 20s. Ely’s husband, Howard, suggested Woods Online offered by St. Mary.
“After I started on the path I made goals for myself,” Ely explained. “I would work all day and come home to study. There were some things that I had to sacrifice to get my degree, but my family was all for it; they wanted it for me as bad as I wanted it for me. I was not just getting a degree; I wanted to do well when I was doing it.”
Her determination to get her degree was not always that strong. She almost didn’t enroll but found the confidence after a chance meeting with a lady at a conference.
Ely, a former Title I tutor and classroom assistant for Perry Township Schools, was at the seminar to hear guest speaker Grace Corrigan, the mother of former teacher and Challenger space shuttle astronaut Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, one of seven crew members killed in the Challenger explosion in 1986. Walking to the main ballroom, she noticed a woman (unbeknownst to her it was Corrigan) standing alone in a side room.
“The door was open. … I am an outgoing person and inquisitive, so I went in and asked if she was OK. We started talking and before I knew it we had talked for half an hour,” Ely explained. “She convinced me that I needed to go back to college. I was a huge shock to me when I saw that it was her going on stage to talk.”
Her confidence after the conference continued, until she began to have second thoughts on the rainy day of her orientation.
Before she had the chance to fully give in to her fear, the elevator doors opened, bringing Ely face-to-face with Mary Margaret Bowels, the associate director of online program before she died.
“She took one look at me and said, ‘You have a look on your face; I have to say, you are going to do this, and you are going to be fine.’
That was just the first of many supportive moments Ely received from the Woods faculty and staff. “(My adviser) said, ‘Why don’t you go for professional writing?’ and I said, ‘Can you do that?’ ”
Not only did Ely give writing the old college try as she says, but she graduated with honors.
She then put her new skills and confidence to good use, beginning a children’s book and writing numerous essays she submitted to Chicken Soup.
“I always loved those books, so I thought that was something I could do,” she said of the popular book series. “I sent a few things in, but never heard back.”
Ely said she was elated when she finally heard from the publishers that one of her essays had been accepted.
She continues to work on her children’s book and other essays for Chicken Soup. “None of this would have happened without St. Mary-of-the-Woods.”