Four years is enough time for a president to complete a term, an infant to grow into a young child, a new Olympics to be held and for Renée Belisky to completely reinvent herself.
Jenny Jellison, associate professor of psychology and Belisky’s academic advisor, vividly remembers the first time she met Belisky. Although it’s been nearly four years, those few minutes still remain fresh in Jellison’s mind.
“She talked so quietly I had to lean forward to hear her,” Jellison said. “She seemed absolutely terrified.”
In the fall of 2013, the time of their meeting, Belisky was. It wasn’t paranoia from a horror film, or the typical nerves that come from starting classes. It was change, the risk of beginning college, the risk of a new life, the unknown future.
“I was very awkward,” Belisky said with a small smile and shake of her head. “I didn’t want to take risks, and I was always just in my own little bubble.”
Belisky, a psychology major with minors in child development and self-development, now defines herself as “courageous, empathetic and a risk taker,” a definite turnaround from who she once was.
“She really took advantage of what college is supposed to do for you,” Jellison said. “It’s not just about the degree and major, it’s transforming 18-year-olds into competent adults, not a 22-year-old with a piece of paper.”
According to Belisky, she began to see herself as timid, and vowed to readjust herself.
“As I continued in school, my mindset totally changed. I thought to myself that I am going to start taking risks and really challenging myself,” Belisky said.
She founded an organization called A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, which would offer her an opportunity to combine her passion for ministry along with her love of the outdoors, with the only hesitation being travel to its location in South Dakota.
“I kept on encouraging myself to do it,” Belisky said. “I wanted to take that risk of travelling to South Dakota on pure faith. I thought I am going to go out there and throw myself in the deep end and take risks and see what happens.”
Growing up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, she was raised “fishing, hunting and wanting to be outside.”
Belisky, after suffering head injuries in high school, found solace in the outdoors.
“There is a complete calmness,” Belisky said.
Deciding upon a college is a stressful task for all students, but according to Belisky, after her tour of Waynesburg and learning of its mission, she was confident in her decision to attend the university.
“Service is a lot of who I am and what I identify with,” Belisky said. “I love the idea of being able to benefit other people’s lives with my energy. I saw that this was a way to serve God and see God through service.”
Upon reflection on her time academically at Waynesburg, Belisky’s thinking falls in line with many students’.
“It was just a lot of hard work and some difficult classes,” Belisky said. “I am also very task-oriented. Being able to make a plan and taking it one step at a time has really helped me be able to adapt to different classes.”
After graduating from Waynesburg, she plans on attending Geneva College to earn her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Though Belisky has decided to further her education, what she is doing with those degrees still remains unclear.
“I would love, eventually, to work in a university setting, my involvement with peer education has made me want to help students,” Belisky said. “There are so many different things I can or want to do.”
Her calmness to her future endeavors may have left freshman Renée quivering in panic, but Jellison couldn’t be more confident in Belisky’s future success.
“I just can’t help but think to myself about all of the good she is going to do for the world,” Jellison said.