Living a Legacy

Sisters and Ball State legacy students reflect on their college experience. 

Students who have followed in their family’s footsteps by attending the same college or university that they have graduated from are known as legacy students. 

Kate and Sarah Mahnensmith along with their mom, Holly, are examples of legacy students who have a long-standing relationship with Ball State.

Kate, Holly, and Sarah Mahnensmith, Photo Provided

Sarah is a freshman special education major at Ball State who runs cross country and track for the university.

What made you want to pursue special education?

My younger brother has Down Syndrome, and obviously, I have grown up with him, and I have done a lot of stuff with special ed kids before. Like in high school, I interned for two years in a special education classroom working closely with the teacher and with the students. I also have volunteered with different organizations in my hometown that work with kids with disabilities. 

What made you want to attend Ball State? 

So what kind of drew me, was obviously my family is going here — my mom, my sister and a bunch of other relatives. I knew the campus really well coming in, and I’ll say it was known for their education, so academically I knew that it would be a great fit for me to pursue the degree that I want. I also really love the size of the MAC (Mid-American Conference) and the [track and cross country] coaches.

How long have you been running cross country?

I have been running since 6th grade. It is actually funny because I started running, because I used to swim. I swam competitively for over 13 years, and I started running because it is pre-conditioning for swimming. I absolutely love it.

What are you doing on campus when you are not at practice or in class?

There is not a lot of free time. I have made a lot of friends, and we live in the all-athlete dorm so we know each other pretty well now so I’m with my friends a lot. I also go to FCAIA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Athletes In Action). There are just some really long days. People think that we just go to school and then go to practice, but we also have study tables, academic meetings, and team meetings.

Did being a legacy student help your admissions decision? 

Yeah it definitely did. None of my family put pressure on me to choose Ball State, and it was completely my own decision. Obviously my mom, especially, wanted me to go to Ball State. It’s her alma mater and she loves it here. My whole family loves coming down. They know the campus so when they come they are like, “Oh, I lived here,” or “I ate lunch there.” I also received two legacy scholarships, the Ball State legacy scholarship and then where I’m from in northeast Indiana has a chapter of alumni that are very involved, so I received a scholarship from them, as well. 

Any plans right now for after graduation? 

After I graduate, I want to go to the elementary level. With the degree that I will be coming out with, it will be one I could teach K-12, so I could teach anywhere I wanted to in the school system. I could go back for a master’s degree. I just really want to get my education license and then start teaching

Sarah’s sister, Kate, is a senior this year at Ball State and cheers for the university.

What are you majoring in? 

I am majoring in nursing. I will graduate in December. I am so excited. I will technically be finished in October, so the hard part is almost over. 

What are your plans for after graduation?

I am hoping right now to get a job at Ball Memorial specializing in NICU, labor delivery or Mother-Baby. I was actually just on the website yesterday, and they have jobs available in all three areas. So I’ll be in Muncie at least nine months after I graduate. I can’t wait though. It is getting very real now. 

What made you want to go into nursing?

I just think it is a great field that is on the rise. It is just such a special job because you are seeing people at their most vulnerable times in their lives and it’s up to you to not only care for them physically, but emotionally as well and provide that reassurance. The most important aspect of a nurse is being that patient advocate for their health and well-being. My second youngest brother, Eric, has Down Syndrome and he was in the neonatal intensive care unit for a month and I was old enough, I was eight when he was born, to realize what was going on. I just remember how special those nurses were to my family and just providing great medical care and really helping my family to adjust to such a large change in our lives. 

What has your experience been like at Ball State?

I love Ball State. My mom was a cheerleader, so she always made it really special that we came to football games and things like that. My mom did a great job of encouraging Ball State but also keeping an open mind to other schools. Our hearts are Cardinals, through and through. When I am here, it is just home. It is just such a special spot. I love that I am able to make my own memories and create my own experience. Ball State has just been so perfect. And Ball State has an amazing nursing school, so I am confident when I graduate, I will be able to get a job.

How long have you been cheering?

I actually started in middle school, but I was not serious about it. I was a swimmer, and I originally wanted to swim in college, but I just got burnt out with it so I just decided I might try to focus more on cheer, and then I just fell in love with it. 

Where is your favorite place to be on campus when you aren’t cheering or in class?

My favorite spot on campus is Scheumann Stadium. I am a big football girl, too. I also love to sit out [by Frog Baby] and study and put my feet in the water. 

Do you have any plans on continuing your education? 

I have considered going back for my master’s in education and becoming a nursing professor or nursing instructor. I have to get a few years of experience as a bedside nurse before I can do that. It’s definitely not something I am going to do right out of my bachelor’s degree, but it is definitely something that I am keeping an open mind to. And Ball State has an amazing master’s program in nursing. I definitely don’t have any plans to leave Muncie any time soon. 

Sarah and Kate’s mom, Holly, is one of the girls’ many family members who have attended Ball State. 

What made you want to attend Ball State?

I knew Ball State had a fantastic Teacher’s College, plus I had many members of my family who had been to Ball State so I was familiar with the campus. It wasn’t too big, it wasn’t too small, and I was only about an hour or so away from home. 

How many of your family members have attended Ball State? 

When we counted it up for the legacy scholarship this last time, it was a total of 15 different people. 

What did you major in? 

I went to Ball State for elementary education. I taught elementary for ten years, and then I took ten years off to have four kids, and now I teach preschool. 

What was your experience like at Ball State? 

My years at Ball State were amazing. The memories and friendships I made at Ball State are just incredible. I cheered and I was in the Chi Omega sorority. A lot of the relationships I had at Ball State still keep in touch, more than just Facebook or things like that. I still get together with a lot of my friends and roommates from college. 

In what way has Ball State been a part of your life after graduation? 

I served on the Alumni Council for probably 15 or so years. I served on a local chapter here, so that has kept us involved with knowing what is going on within campus. I got so much out of Ball State that I wanted to give back not only financially, but also with my time and service.

What does it mean to you that Kate and Sarah are attending your alma mater? 

We never pushed our kids to go to Ball State. I had my life at Ball State, and I have never tried to live my life through my children, and so they made their decision as to where they wanted to go. But, I am over-the-moon proud that they fell in love with Ball State like I fell in love with it. And then for Kate to be following in my footsteps being on the cheer squad, that is just a really proud mom moment. And then Sarah is running cross country and track. While I never ran cross country and track in college, I did in high school. I feel like she has also found one of my passions, as well. It has been neat to sit back and watch their experiences take form.


Images: Provided by Holly Mahnensmith

Featured Image: Sabine Coy


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