Christiana Thornton Image

Christiana Thornton

President & CEO, The NHHEAF Network Organizations

High School Name: Bow High School (Bow, NH)

Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, Bachelor's of Art degree in Political Science/minor in Communications, 2002

I majored in political science with a minor in communications. Throughout my career, each job I have had has been very tied to the foundation of my degree in political science. My current work involves significant interaction with lawmakers, regulators, and other public officials. The skills I learned involving my minor in communications provided me with solid skills to engage those parties.

In the early stages of high school I began to truly think about whether I would attend college. The seeds were certainly there in middle school, mainly due to my own curiosity having observed role models pursue higher education.

My Uncle Rob had attended college and was my first real peek into what college was - and how it could prepare one for a successful career. I was able to see the difference a college education has made in his life. His success after attending college inspired me to consider my own educational goals.

Once I reached high school, my mother was particularly supportive of my interest in attending college. She has always been open with me that she wished that her own parents had encouraged her to attend college. She wanted to see me have the opportunity she was never provided.

For me it was absolutely a financial challenge. My family had not been in a position to save money for my college education. From the first year to the last year of college, I always dreaded the process of trying to figure out how in the world we could close the financial gap between grants and the actual cost of attending.

I also had a more unique background (having been home schooled from the 4th through the 11th grades) - my first year of financial did not include any academic scholarships. Financials barriers were no question the greatest challenge for me.

For me, it was the opportunity to be independent and to focus on my hopes and dreams. Given our family dynamics, I carried some significant responsibility as a high school student. When I went on to college, I was able to pursue my own interests and identify individual strengths I had not been able to foster previously.

While my college has a very robust alumni program, I have not been as engaged as I hope to be one day. My interaction with my college has been more focused on the personal relationships I developed in Kappa Delta, my sorority.

My parents ran a family business, and this was my go-to job every summer! I worked in the office on accounting and payroll functions.

As I graduated with a political science degree, I was eager to hit the ground running! A few weeks after I graduated I began work as a Field Manager for a United States Senate campaign in New Hampshire.

As you begin high school, take advantage of any opportunities to obtain college credits while you are in high school. This will allow you more flexibility when you start college. Getting as many of your general requirements of out of the way as you can will be a great help down the road – and save you (and your family!) money!

Attending college gave me the opportunity to identify and pursue interests I never knew I had! If I had not had the chance to pursue the leadership opportunities I did in college, I am certain I would not be where I am today in my career. It also allowed me to explore classes or fields I thought I was set on - only to realize there were other avenues I was actually more interested in.

My college experience also allowed me to explore extra-curricular activities that later prepared me for future careers. College provided me with a solid foundation, upon which I have been able to build upon throughout adulthood.

You do not have to know what you want to major in. Start out exploring classes that pique your interest and curiosity. If you go in one direction, and then realize it is not what you really want to pursue, it's okay to change direction.

If you are struggling to decide what direction to take, consider the extra-curricular activities you are engaged in and whether their is a connection or pathway to aligning those interests to a college and career path.

Be bold! Do not be afraid to ask other for help networking. Individuals like myself can point to people along the path that helped to make connections. I find that people with a career are incredibly willing to give back in this way, as they can point back to someone that did the same for them.