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Gionté Mason: My ACES Story
Over the past 150 years, the University of Illinois and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences have been at the forefront of education, discovery, and translation. From improving people’s lives to stretching the frontiers of knowledge, ACES graduates are changing our world for the better. In this special Voices of ACES blog series, we are celebrating and embracing our past. Our ACES story is unique, and its characters are doing remarkable work – work that truly matters.
By Gionté Mason, FSHN ’19
I love sports. Growing up, I pictured myself moving far away from my home in Bourbonnais to play college football. But things didn’t exactly work that way. I’ll be honest that I didn’t consider the University of Illinois because it was so close to home. However, my dad, an Army war veteran, insisted that I apply for the Children of War Veterans tuition waiver at U of I. I didn’t expect anything to come of it because the award goes to only one student per county each year, and there are a lot of veterans in Kankakee County. When I found out the good news that my U of I tuition would be completely covered by this waiver, I called my dad, knowing that it would be a huge weight off of his shoulders to hear that I would be going to college without any financial burdens. I went to the U of I that fall majoring in biology, with my heart set on medical school. If I wasn’t going to play sports as a career, I wanted to stay connected to athletics through sports medicine. I loved the Illinois campus—it felt like home.
But my love for my studies wasn’t as strong. I struggled to connect with the material in my biology classes. It’s not that the material was too tough, and I wasn’t afraid of working hard. But it just wasn’t clicking. I couldn’t relate to the content or apply it to my own life. A friend in my honors fraternity encouraged me to try a nutrition class in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. My first class, FSHN 101, was like a breath of fresh air. I could apply the class to my life. I began incorporating the things I was learning and uncovered a passion for dietetics. Now I’m working in a dietetics research lab. Things look a lot different than I thought they would my senior year of high school, but I’ve found my groove. Finding my passion has allowed me to grab opportunities and to move forward, full speed ahead. And there’s no other school in the world where I’d choose to live out this process.
We invite you to tell us your ACES story as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois and the College of ACES. Share your story on social media using #ACESstory, or visit 150.illinois.edu.