Catching Up with Nick Kossmeyer, Churchill ‘06
We recently sat down with Churchill alum and recent Mizzou grad, Nick Kossmeyer. Nick attended Churchill for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, graduating in 1996 to transition back to his previous school.
Nick shared some of the strategies he used to get through high school and college, as well as what he’s up to today as a young professional back home in St. Louis.
Churchill: What brought you to Churchill?
Nick Kossmeyer: I was diagnosed with a reading comprehension disability and ADHD. I didn’t really know what the reading comprehension part meant since I was young at the time, but they basically explained to me that I could read a paragraph and recite all the words, but when I finished, I had no recollection of what I just read.
Churchill: What was school like before you came to Churchill?
NK: I went to Christ, Prince of Peace (CPOP). It was a long time ago, but from what I remember, it was very rough for me. I had a hard time keeping up with the way other students learned.
Churchill: What was life like when you first got to Churchill?
NK: When I first moved to Churchill, I felt like I was special, and I didn’t want to be special. I wanted to be like all the other students. I also thought it was such a big deal that I wasn’t with my friends anymore at school. But when I got to Churchill, my teachers explained to me, “Nick, you just learn differently. There’s nothing to be upset about or concerned that you’re stupid or dumber than anyone else. You’re not — you just learn differently.”
Churchill: What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Churchill?
NK: I was really looking forward to this question! One of my favorite memories at the school was Mr. Rankin’s gym class. I love that they still do gym every day. It gets you out of the classroom and just gets the energy out. I loved being able to get outside and play games, hockey, and stuff like that.
“One of my favorite memories at the school was Mr. Rankin’s gym class. I love that they still do gym every day. It gets you out of the classroom and just gets the energy out.”
My favorite memory of the school, overall, though, is of Benny and Hazel. They were the custodians at the old Churchill building. Benny would walk around the cafeteria and if there was extra cheese pizza left over, he’d yell, “Extra cheese pizza, extra cheesy!” As a child, that was so funny, and who doesn’t want free pizza? That’s always stuck with me.
Churchill: How did you know when it was time to move on or “graduate” from Churchill? What was that transition process like?
NK: I didn’t know that I was ready, but when my teachers told me that I was, the confidence really came along with it. I was like, “Okay, I am ready. I know what I’m doing.” At that point they put me on the transition track to get me ready for what normal school would be like.
Churchill: What was your school experience like after Churchill?
NK: I went back to CPOP for seventh and eighth grade, which was great. It was a drastic change from what I experienced before, when I didn’t feel prepared for anything or understand how I learned. When I came back from Churchill, I had that understanding and I knew what I needed to do to keep up with my schoolwork. Granted, it did require more effort than what the other students put in. They didn’t have to work as hard as I did, but that’s something I learned at Churchill: that it’s going to require a little more effort for me to understand certain things.
In eighth grade I got accepted into two schools: De Smet and CBC. I went to CBC for two years and then transferred to De Smet and that’s where I finished out high school.
“At De Smet and Mizzou, I took extended time on my tests and took all my tests outside the classroom to get a distraction-free environment. Those strategies made me a better student.”
Churchill: Were there any strategies that you brought from Churchill to De Smet or Mizzou?
NK: At Churchill, I learned that when you have a disability, you can take tests out of the classroom or take time and a half. At De Smet and Mizzou, I took extended time on my tests and took all my tests outside the classroom to get a distraction-free environment. Those strategies made me a better student.
My freshman year of college, I actually fell out of the routine, thinking I didn’t need help anymore. I wasn’t using the techniques that Churchill taught me, including those strategies that I am allowed to use because of my learning disability. My grades were severely affected and I had to sit down and have a serious conversation with my dad. He said, “Nick, you need to know things aren’t going to change. It’s always going to take all this effort and you need to just get used to it.” And when I started using those strategies again, my GPA started to go back up.
Churchill: What are you up to now?
NK: I just graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a major in sociology and a double minor in philosophy and business. Now I’m a recruiter for a company called Insight Global.
I’m also part of a not-for-profit organization called Project Wake Up. We’ve raised about $75,000 so far and our goal is to have the documentary played on every college campus in the next few years so we can show people what mental illness is really like. Once the documentary is out, we’re hoping to get our foot in the door in Jefferson City to start to get more money allocated to mental illness in Missouri and eventually on the federal level.
“I’m also part of a not-for-profit organization called Project Wake Up. We’re working on a documentary to end the stigma behind mental illness and prevent suicide.”
Churchill: What makes Churchill special?
NK: Churchill is amazing in so many ways. Tutorial is something that stands out. With one-on-one tutoring you get to build that connection with a teacher on a personal level — and when you connect on that level with a teacher, you feel more comfortable and learning is exponentially easier.
Another thing is the way teachers approach children who may feel disconnected from the group of friends they just left, or who feel like outcasts. The teachers at Churchill do an amazing job at making students feel normal, accepted to the environment, and a part of the school. I’ve never felt this connected to a school. I just graduated from Mizzou — and I love Mizzou — but I have a stronger connection to Churchill, even though I graduated several years ago.
Churchill: What advice would you give to a young student who is struggling with a learning disability?
NK: Just because you learn a little bit differently doesn’t mean that you’re stupid or less intelligent than anyone else. It just means that you have to work a little bit harder.