August 26, 2022

“This community has supported me in so many ways,” said Winder, who graduated with a psychology degree in 2022.

Peighton Winder says her time at Great Bay Community College was “the experience of a lifetime,” because for the first time she felt heard, embraced, and emboldened.

“This community has supported me in so many ways,” said Winder, who graduated with an associate degree in psychology in spring 2022. “Since middle school I’ve struggled with mental health issues that sometimes leave me unable to complete work or attend school.”

This time, she was able to finish at Great Bay thanks to a community that would not let her fail. She contemplated dropping out when the pandemic hit and she became depressed, but her adviser, Dr. Aimee Huard, wouldn’t allow that. Instead, Huard helped Winder receive online counseling and worked with her to reduce her course load to a manageable level during the stressful time. “She knew how hard I had worked and didn’t want me to throw it all away,” Winder said. “Without Dr. Aimee’s encouragement I wouldn’t have a degree right now.”

In addition to her degree, Winder also received hope for her future at Great Bay. She recently began working as a certified yoga instructor. Her current work is not related to her psychology degree, but it is related to her time at Great Bay. “The flexibility of Great Bay allowed me to take on and pursue another passion of mine. When I first applied to Great Bay, I knew that I wanted to help people one way or another, specifically those who have struggled mentally,” she said. “Along the way to completing my degree, I discovered there are many routes to healing.”

Yoga being one of them. The support she received at Great Bay gave her the confidence and courage “to take this leap” and follow her passion. Instead of doubting herself, she began believing in herself and her potential. “Great Bay inspired me to think limitlessly,” she said.

“Right now, I plan to grow myself as a yoga teacher and possibly take a trauma-informed yoga course, as I’m still interested in pursuing psych. I definitely will be back to Great Bay at some point — I would love to even teach yoga at Great Bay.”

Winder, from Portsmouth, enrolled at Great Bay right out of high school in 2018. From the outset, Great Bay felt like home. Registration went smoothly, faculty and staff were helpful, and the campus was welcoming and comfortable.

She knew she made the right decision during an early course, Critical Thinking in the Humanities, taught by Erik Hinnov. “My previous experience with school had been lectures and slideshows of notes and then a quiz or test a few days later. But after the first day of Professor Hinnov’s class, I was introduced to a different way of learning that was truly life-changing,” she said. “Professor Hinnov delivered the information in an open conversation where we the students would share insights on the topics discussed, and the best part was that our professor truly listened. His class sparked my desire to learn and be curious.”

That set a positive tone that led to personal connections across Great Bay, from the security guards at the front desk who always said hi, to the staff at bookstore who made her feel comfortable, to the professors who always listened. “I think the main reason the community of Great Bay is so amazing is because it’s so small. It allows for more true connections to ensue among students, faculty and staff, and the Seacoast community.”

Those connections came through for Winder when the pandemic sent her into a spin. But instead of everything falling apart, as had happened in the past, everything fell into place. At Great Bay, she learned to stop spinning.

“Without the help and support of Great Bay during my times of mental health crisis, I would not have graduated. But I was viewed as an actual human being and not just another kid on a roster. So, no, I have no regrets. I might say I regret taking four years to complete my degree, but I don’t, because that’s two less years that I would have spent at this amazing school with such an amazing community.”