The Education We All Deserve
“No matter who you are...no matter where you came from.”
Dustin Cooper cleaning a desk
Photo: Christopher Rice ’22

Growing up in rural Kentucky, Dustin ’22 knew from a young age that he wanted the opportunity to attend college. Fast forward to his senior year at Berea, and Dustin is edging closer to becoming the first in his family to obtain a college degree.

His reflection captures the value of affordable education and cuts to the heart of Berea’s mission: “No matter who you are, no matter where you came from, everybody deserves a chance to try and make something of themselves,” Dustin said. “I just lucked out into having such a place close to home.”

Dustin Cooper
Photo: Christopher Rice ‘22

Dustin’s childhood held many challenges, including watching his parents struggle with addiction.  

“People can say what they want about being raised in the situation I was raised in, but it does teach you a lot,” Dustin said. “It teaches you the person that you don’t want to be. It teaches you the things that you should avoid, the things you don’t want to do. And I took all of that to heart.”

Dustin was raised by his grandparents and, like many members of his extended family, they work jobs in construction and fast food that take a physical toll on their health. From this experience, Dustin knew he wanted to find a different path, and he gravitated to a major in Computer Science. As Dustin describes, “it’s a big step coming from there to here.”

For Dustin, the “here” refers to all that Berea has to offer, from one-on-one mentoring with professors who truly listen to labor program supervisors who steer students toward valuable internship opportunities.

“The small setting of Berea really opens a lot of doors to make connections with your professors and your supervisors,” Dustin noted. “Things that you can carry on beyond college after you graduate.”

Soon two state-of-the-art technology buildings will join the long list of what Berea has to offer. As students like Dustin work to overcome challenges and build a new future, they will have access to the learning labs and design spaces they deserve.

“The small setting of Berea really opens a lot of doors to make connections with your professors and your supervisors, things that you can carry on beyond college after you graduate.”

Dustin ’22

As Dustin noted, Computer Science is all about change: “It’s probably the field that changes the most over time.”

Berea stands ready to keep pace with this ever-changing field by investing in students like Dustin who jump in with both feet, taking advantage of all the opportunities Berea has to offer. During his time at Berea, Dustin quickly worked his way up to a Facilities student management position, served as a teaching assistant for Intro to Engineering Design, and earned an internship at Freedom Mortgage, all while remaining on the Dean’s List.

Berea students have so much to gain from our investment in their futures, and they take full advantage of an affordable education.

“If it wasn’t for Berea, I’m not really sure where I’d be right now,” Dustin said. “I definitely would not be as successful as I am today. I would probably be working in some fast food or construction industry back home. But those things take a toll on your mind, on your body, on your relationships. It just really goes to show how important education is and how important affordable education is. Without our donors, this place couldn’t exist, and the education that we all deserve wouldn’t be here.”

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