Angel Rocks

My name is Cynthia Baldwin the daughter of Nicholas and Patricia Baldwin. My great grandmother, Lucy Whitley, is the original CIRI Shareholder that I descend from on my mother’s side.

I guess you can say I grew up in the Education and Training field. My mother was an Employment and Training Advisor, after school I would sit in the common area of her office, waiting until it was time to go home. I would listen to her talk to prospective students, do assessments to find out where their interests lay, research schools to attend and help the apply for funding. In the evenings she took college classes over teleconference and would be listening to the class discussions while getting dinner on the table. I am the youngest of 5, through her own perseverance she graduated with her Bachelor degree the year before I graduated high school.

I received my Bachelor of Art in Art May 2005. In 2009 I began work as a Financial Aid Advisor at UAF, and took advantage of my tuition waiver, starting the MBA program in January 2010. I got a headache on the left side of my head, that I attributed to stress, but the headache did not go away, it was constant. After 3 months I went to the doctor and after 6 weeks of tests they found out I had an aneurysm on my left ophthalmic artery. After the findings the neurology office in Anchorage called me the next Monday morning and told me that I would be flying to Anchorage the next day. I told them it’s finals week, and I can’t do that (partly because I was testing the seriousness of the situation, and partly because I didn’t want to throw a semester away). They asked when my last final is, and I told them Thursday night, they said I would fly out on Friday morning then. Over the series of weeks I was transferred to Seattle, where they scheduled a craniotomy and clipping of the aneurysm. I thought that I would be back to work in a few weeks, and starting new classes in the fall. I did not realize that it would take a year to recover. I notified The CIRI Foundation, who was helping to fund my education, and UAF that I would be on a year Leave of Absence.

Through the years I continued my education toward my Masters of Business, and notifying The CIRI Foundation of bumps along the way. When I had custody of my nephews in 2013-14, I called them, and they said I was allowed to reduce my credit load, and they would continue to fund me for the costs of my tuition and fees. There were many times when I would bring the kids to practice and sit on the bleachers with my lap top and textbooks, hoping that the ball would not hit me and break my laptop. I kept my opinions to myself as a “friend” shared her opinion that it is so sad that I would do homework, and not watch or support the children’s games. I decided that it was more important for the kids to see me work for my education, and echoed this as I told the kids that my standards are higher than the schools, and I would pull them out of practice for low grades, even if the school allows an F, I do not.

In November 2015 my father passed away after a long battle with cancer, and a myriad of other health problems. After his passing I moved to Anchorage. I completed my last course for the MBA as a distance student and did not plan to return to Fairbanks to walk or announce my graduation. The staff at The CIRI Foundation, my sister Evelyn, and my mother encouraged me to travel to Fairbanks, and work past the pain of going back to my father’s house, to announce graduation, walk, and celebrate with my family. I will drive to Fairbanks with my son, and walk on May 8, 2016.

I would like to thank The CIRI Foundation for their support, not only monetarily, but for encouraging me, throughout my program, and to celebrate the achievement. I could not have accomplished this without them.

-Cynthia Baldwin