Life

Student Fulfills Teacher’s Prophecy 21 Years Later

You should never doubt the power of having people in your life who believe in you, nor should you forget the people who have helped you achieve your dreams. Christin Gilmer is well schooled in both of these of these life lessons.

As a sixth grader in Yuma, Arizona in 1997, Gilmer’s teacher, Judith Toensing, wrote her a note at the end of the year predicting big things in her future. Toensing turned out to be right, and Gilmer never forgot her.

“It has been a joy to have you in class,” Toensing wrote to Gilmer all those years ago. “Keep up the good work! Invite me to your Harvard graduation!”

Earlier this week, Gilmer, 33, did indeed graduate from Harvard with a doctorate in public health. Even better, Toensing was on hand to see it.

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“It meant a lot to me to know that outside my mom, someone who knew me so intimately believed in my dreams and my ability to accomplish them,” says Gilmer.

In a long Facebook post, Gilmer mentioned all the family, friends, and educators who helped her on her journey to earning her doctorate. She singled out Toensing and even posted a picture of the note from sixth grade in which Toensing asked to be invited to her Harvard graduation.

The note caught the attention of an administrator at Harvard who invited Toensing to the graduation ceremony at no cost to her. Gilmer personally delivered the invitation to Toensing.

“I have high expectations of all my students, so to hear that Christin had achieved this goal did not surprise me in the least,” says Toensing. “I feel honored that Harvard chose to tell Christin’s story, her journey, and that I was a small part of that journey.”

Gilmer credits Toensing with teaching her about the connection between global health and human rights, while also encouraging her students to help others any way they can.

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“She lit a fire in me that helping people is a powerful tool, and through education, you can better serve populations in need,” Gilmer said of Toensing. “I will never forget her passion for others.”

While Gilmer has achieved a great deal by getting her doctorate from Harvard, her former teacher believes the best is yet to come.

“She has many more miles to go,” Toensing says of Gilmer. “I know with her tenacity, her dedication, and her passion for helping humanity, she will be highly successful and that we will all be the better for knowing her.”