Autumn Gebhart

Autumn Gebhart on the second floor of Coulter Hall, home of the Lillian Slutzker Honors College and OCC’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

  • Major: Humanities & Social Sciences
  • High School: Henninger, class of 2018

Autumn Gebhart has never been happier or felt more at home than she does today. She’s in her first semester at OCC where she is one of just 15 students in the Lillian Slutzker Honors College. She’s also enjoying life with her mother whom she was separated from for more than a decade. “Life with my mom is pretty amazing. I’ve grown up and learned a lot of life lessons with her. We are very close.”

When Gebhart was born 18 years ago her parents were teenagers. They struggled to take care of her and ultimately grandparents in another state took over parenting duties. Something always seemed to be missing in Gebhart’s life and when she turned 16 she decided to do something about it. “I was sad a lot of the time and realized I needed a change. I didn’t realize the significance of having my mother in my life until I moved in with her.”

Gebhart moved from Pennsylvania to Central New York, began living with her mother and spent her last two years of high school at Henninger. She received her diploma in June and two months later began her first semester at OCC. As a member of the Lillian Slutzker Honors College her tuition costs are covered and she receives a stipend each month to use toward books and supplies. The benefits of being an Honors College student have been about much more than the money though. “I had never been in many groups before. With Honors College, I’ve been able to make a lot of friends who are like-minded. There’s a lot of diversity and we are super-friendly.”

Earlier this semester the College held a press conference to announce a $250,000 gift from the Lillian Slutzker Foundation. The money was used to start the Honors College. Gebhart was the student speaker at the event and shared her story with those in attendance. “I was totally nervous. That was the first speech I’ve ever given. It was an amazing experience. I felt so honored to be selected and share my story about how this college has helped me so much. Everything they have provided me is truly amazing. I really enjoy being at OCC. It has brought a lot of amazing opportunities and I’m excited to see how the Honors College progresses.”

Gebhart’s career goal is to help others as a psychologist. “I took a college course on psychology and started seeing similarities between ways I felt as a child and things I was learning about. I’d like to help people and help them understand they’re not crazy. Their problems come from a source.”

In the mean time she’s enjoying her first semester, life with her mother and her personal growth. “I’ve gotten my first job at Wegmans, opened my first bank account, bought a car and became financially responsible. I’ve become a responsible adult and am able to take care of myself. My mom has taught me a lot about responsibility.”

You can learn more about supporting students like Autumn Gebhart through our Believe In Better fundraising campaign here.

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