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Cyclones all over the world

Mills Alumna, KC Callender, celebrates her spring Commencement with poppers of confetti. Photos Courstesy of KC Callender.

KC Callender, 22, led a productive life while at Mills College, which included being a Resident Assistant for several Learning Living Communities, and is now looking ahead to the future with the hopes of finding a career working with marine mammals.

Since graduating, Callender has been extremely busy selling her belongings, including her car and motorcycle, before hopping on a plane and moving to London, England for four months to live with her partner.

While in London, she has been working on a young adult novel, which she hopes will be finished by the time she goes to Bali in October to obtain her SCUBA – Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus – instructor license.

From there, Callender plans to apply to internships, jobs and grad schools that she hopes will ultimately lead to a career working with marine mammals, as she wants to care, train and rehabilitate them.

“This has been my dream since I was four years old, and it only took me until after I graduated to really accept that I couldn’t give up on that childhood dream,” Callender said.  “Well, that or being an author – which I’m trying, too!”

Born in Ventura, California, Callender had moved to Morgan Hill, CA by the time she was two years old, before eventually settling down in Mt. Airy, Maryland, due to her father’s job working for Lockheed Martin, a technology-based business that does a lot of work for NASA and the government, where she kept multiple horses in her backyard.

When Callender was fourteen years old, her parents divorced and her mother gained custody of her, prompting them to move to Santa Monica, CA to live with Callender’s grandmother, who was terminally ill.  Callender’s grandmother owned a house that had been in the family ever since Callender’s great-grandparents escaped Nazi Germany.

Callender had spent the summers of her childhood visiting her grandparents in this house, so moving in really felt like visiting in the summer.

“I still get filled with the memories of lox and bagels in the dining room, my hand cramping from writing stories in a notebook or the toss of a baseball with my grandfather in the backyard,” Callender said.

As far as living arrangements were concerned, “It was small at first,” Callender said. “I lived in a room that was about half the size of most people’s rooms, though thankfully not a cupboard under the stairs.”

Callender recalls that when she first moved in to the house, she had to clear out her room, which had been a semi-office area.

“It was filled with a broken type writer and tons of smelly old books written in German.  I remember asking my grandmother if she could still read them, and as she flipped through the pages just said a simple ‘Yes,’ “ Callender said.The house is full of memories, accordingto Callender.

“My mom is filled with the memories of her grandparents in the house, and I’m filled with the memories of mine,” Callender said.  “Apparently my great-grandmother was a very wealthy woman in Germany and gave up everything to get some of the last boat tickets out of Europe. It’s heroic, scary and loving.  I don’t view that house as something horrid, but rather a safe-haven.”

Callender happily completed high school in Santa Monica before entering Mills College, where she originally planned to major in creative writing but then eventually switched over to biology after two years.

“The only reason I had never pursued biology before was because I was scared, mostly of Chemistry,” Callender said, “And I decided that fear was never a reason not to do something.”

Callender’s dedication to her studies impressed her professors.

“KC was an inquisitive and rigorous Biology student.  She was always focused and thoughtful in the Lab,” said Susan Spiller, Associate Professor of Biology at Mills.

According to Callender, some of the best ways to get the most out of an institution is to become a part of it.

“I learned this from becoming a Resident Assistant, which I did for 2-and-a-half years,” Callender said.  “I was actually planning on transferring until I did this.  That is where I found my family and really learned what Mills had to offer, considering I was the one supposed to be telling the resident what it had to offer.”

Callender’s residents praise her skills for being both a confidante and an authority figure.

“I think that KC was an excellent RA because she mastered the combination of being someone who I felt comfortable enough having a friendship with but also had enough authority that I respected her as my resident advisor,” said junior Maribel Garcia.

Spiller agrees that Callender made an excellent RA, someone who first years trusted to take care of them and look out for their interests.

“My experience with KC as an RA for the Sustainability Living Learning Community (LLC) was also really good,” Spiller said.  “My dog, Moose, and I attended one of her Hall meetings around finals time – that was really fun for all of us – Moose thought it was great to get petted by all of the girls.  KC always tried to take good care of her freshwomen charges as an LLC Student advisor.”

In addition, Callender joined the volleyball and crew teams, as well as served as the Class of 2012 Vice President for a little less than two years and worked at Bon Appétit for her last year.

“My life at Mills had its ups and downs, though,” Callender revealed.

According to Callender, her first year was filled with crazy partying, experiencing the Bay Area, tons of unneeded drama and making lifelong friends.  Her second year was filled with new experiences, both mentally and physically, as she played around with gender roles in the way she dressed and acted, while her third year was spent perfecting her RA abilities.

“My final year was an intense year,” Callender said.  “Truthfully, it was my hardest year at Mills.  There was so much pressure with doing everything you wanted before graduation, the looming future, and I was struggling through many personal issues.  No matter what, though, I did it with a smile and with the friends I had made in my first year to hold my hand.”