How To Pay Off Debt With Heart

Vitality Stories

photo by Gretchen LeMay Photography

photo by Gretchen LeMay Photography

How To Pay Off Debt With Heart

Sometimes it takes a village

In Tiger Drive, Carrie Sloan is seventeen and knows college is her only way out of her neighborhood and away from her toxic parents and absent, older siblings. She is conflicted about leaving her two little brothers behind, but believes breaking free from the family mold is the best thing she can do for them. But even without the family’s secrets and choices complicating her every move, Carrie won’t be able to pursue her education without financial aid and she is determined to write a winning scholarship essay.

While Tiger Drive is fiction, I can relate to Carrie and the obstacles she faces and I drew from personal feelings to write her. At seventeen, I was a senior in high school and supporting myself with two jobs after school and on the weekends. If not for a Pell Grant and a generous scholarship from the Carson City Rotary Club, my education would have become part-time or delayed.


Paying it forward

In the spring of 1989, the Carson City Rotary Club more than invested in my future. When they called me to the stage, along with one of my dearest friends, Apryl, to announce they had adjusted the amount of two of the scholarships after interviewing Apryl and me, well, the Rotary Club changed my life.

What had we done that had changed their plans? Unbeknownst to one another, we both went into our interviews and raved about each other. When asked the question who I admired the most, I praised Apryl (valedictorian) and her hard working parents, and I said, “You’ll be meeting her next, you’ll see what I mean,” and during her interview, Apryl told them that she didn’t need a scholarship “…but Teri does.” I am getting teary even as I type this up twenty-six years later. When the awards were given, fellow classmates at the ceremony clapped and stood for us. I walked away knowing I was supported, believed in, and cared for, and I was determined to give them no cause to regret their support. Today, one of the best ways I can show my gratitude is to pay their support, belief, and care forward with the Tiger Drive Scholarship.



Reach, Learn, and Grow

For now, the Tiger Drive scholarship will be funded from my pocket and a formal process for applicants is not in place. Someday, there might be a process. Until then, I am focusing on giving one scholarship this year and relying on good old-fashioned word-of-mouth–similar to what my amazing friend did for me–and a copy of the person’s scholarship essay.

Whom do I consider to be Tiger Drive worthy? Someone who is going to college and isn’t afraid to look beyond what is familiar in his/her life to reach, learn, and grow. And hopefully, someone who will pay it forward some day in some way.


And the winner is…

photo by Gretchen LeMay Photography

photo by Gretchen LeMay Photography

From the moment I laid eyes on William B.’s scholarship essay, I knew I wanted to support him. This young man has inspired me. He is the epitome of what I’d like to see in all people today—someone who isn’t afraid to look beyond what is familiar in his life to reach, learn and grow. You’ll see for yourself when you read his essay below. And clearly I’m not William’s only fan. He was accepted by multiple universities and offered several full-ride scholarships. Well done, William.

Congratulations to Bennington University for being William’s next step in a very successful life to come.


And now for your reading enjoyment…

I was in the tenth grade when I witnessed my first dance performance. I was attending only to support my younger sister. The odd contemporary take on abstract movement had me walking through the exit believing I would be caught dead before being caught dancing. My narrow minded perception of movement can be blamed on the concepts dance demanded of me. It simply seemed irrational to stand center stage gyrating around a clump of people.

Then, somewhere between my exiting those theatre doors and the beginning of my junior year, I had a revelation. During a trial modern dance class I was offered, I realized I cared solely about what I was doing in the moment. I could be me without being judged. Not only was it cathartic but I found myself hungering for more. Nothing is as fulfilling as dance. This hardly tangible abstract art form I considered as unnecessary and excessive movement had somehow waltzed its way into my life. Now I taunt gravity daily with that same group of artists I originally had no appreciation for.

An unprecedented level of motivation and determination, a trait I attribute to myself, picked me up and pushed me to my limits. Going from zero to one-hundred, from no classes to more than eight per week, I quickly became a passionate member of Boise Idaho’s Balance Dance Company. And, as far as dance companies go, Balance is an outlier. We are a group of performers who consider the company to be a pile of best friends where the pursuit of creativity and individuality foster the ideals of comfort and liberation. We don’t compete with each other, we compete with ourselves all the while receiving instruction and encouragement from one another.

I recently performed in a piece titled Wherever There Is. Its purpose was to convey the image of home. This choreographed sequence of phrases stood out from the rest. Somehow it was easy for me to embrace what I was supposed to be doing. Perhaps it is because I interpret home and comfort as one and the same. Being able to embrace dance and express myself comfortably is easier and more freeing than ever before. Dance is a home I can bring with me wherever I go.

All the same, what I love about dance goes far beyond the cozy confines of comfort. I am traditionally an analytical person. Things should make sense before they are done. For example, I consider the solution to Rubik’s Cube to be the epitome of my thought process. A series of algorithms based off the recognition of shapes is all it takes to arrive at a solution. It is routine for the most part. However, dance has shown me that this is not always the case nor should it be. I have learned that through exploration and making mistakes I will find the best path. A path that is always different and never disappointing. I am free to think more abstractly.

Dance also satisfies my indulgence of discovery and desire to think in as many ways as possible. There is beauty in connecting the movement of body to the movement of mind and I aspire to exemplify this. My belief is that physical art occurs when emotion is elicited either from the performer or from the audience. And when both occur, the energy is glorious. Being able to discover and exercise an ability to evoke feelings with someone truly makes dancing meaningful, and has impacted the way I look at life.

I have overcome my mind’s initial analytical judgment, allowing me to exceed and dance far beyond my expectations. I am at the foot of my experience and will always be pushing the limit. The never ending journey will consistently nurture a passion that has attributed, and will continue to attribute, to my happiness and purpose as a person.

One of my favorite ladies and scholarships

This will also be my second year contributing to the Tour de Toni – Toni Langson Rotary Youth Scholarship. This ‘two-fer’ pay it forward warms my heart. Not only does it allow me to thank a rotary chapter in Carson City, but also Toni Langson (via her daughter, Julie) who welcomed me into her home and family when I needed one the most. Toni’s grace, fortitude, and ceaseless can-do attitude influenced me more than she’ll ever know, and I’m confident this scholarship will be changing and shaping the lives of young people for years to come.


The Toni Langson Rotary Youth Scholarship Fund was founded in honor of Toni Langson former President of the Carson City Sunset Rotary Club. Toni was a strong advocate of youth education. The scholarship supports the RYLA High School Leadership Camp, Rotary Eighth Grade Leadership Program, and the Rotary Youth Exchange programs.


Readers, thank you for reaching, learning, and growing with me, William, and Toni. I hope someone, other than me, contacts you and thanks you for something you’ve done, or thanks you for being you. Have a fabulous day.

Not subscribed to the Vitality Stories Newsletter? Click here to sign up

2 thoughts on “How To Pay Off Debt With Heart

  1. Rosa Easton

    Hi Teri,
    I had to do a double-take when I saw your beautiful photo on your website. What a great change! I also read your last two newsletters about the college scholarship and the visit with your mother and I was so moved! I’m so glad to see you writing again.
    The scholarship article touched me because I just sent my son off to college so I am in the middle of that excitement and grief at the same time! I may just sign up for that scholarship committee for my alma mater now! Thanks for the inspiration.
    Your article on your visit with you mom was also very touching. The stories of the elderly are what drew me to your website in the first place and I think the adventure you gave your mom was so precious.
    Your website updates look beautiful too :).
    I can’t wait to read more!

    1. Teri Case Post author

      Rosa, thank you so much! I was nervous about taking pictures, but I took them with a friend who is a professional photographer and she made me laugh the entire time which made the experience memorable 🙂 I cannot imagine what it must feel like to send your son to college. Such a conflict between pride and letting go! I’m having fun with my mother and I’m glad you like the posts. I am happy to be settled again so I can follow your site and progress. You are sharing an amazing story!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.