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Wallflower Turned Social Butterfly

Maxine Coleman

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Maxine Coleman sings, swims, and sometimes storms the dance floor.

Talk to Maxine Coleman about life at the College and the last thing you'll hear about is her classes and the business degree she's pursuing. Sure, the sophomore cares about her grades (she's been seen studying her Spanish textbook on the sidewalk, after all), but it's the things to do on campus and in downtown Charleston that really gets her heart racing. Like using the campus pool in the Stern Student Center to practice her butterfly stroke, or tapping out tunes, just for the heck of it, on one of the community pianos in the Simons Center for the Arts.

"My signature song is 'A Thousand Miles' by Vanessa Carlton," Coleman says. "I have that down to a key."

When Coleman was finishing high school in a suburb of Columbia, S.C., her father encouraged her to consider the College. Coleman fretted that her hometown school, the University of South Carolina, was too big, and that other schools were in areas she considered too rural for her tastes. Going somewhere besides the College made her worry she wouldn't "connect."

Her instincts were right. Despite being naturally shy, Coleman found community at the College, competing for the club swimming team her freshman year and serving as a student ambassador by reaching out to minority students in high school who express interest in attending the College. This year, she's taken three freshmen under her wing, serving as a mentor through the L.I.N.K.S. program. Together they've had outings to Coleman's church as well as the bowling lanes, where they knocked pins down late into the night during an evening of cosmic bowling.

"Me being older, " Coleman says, "They can look up to me and feel more at ease with college."

When she's not busy with any of the above, Coleman fesses up to letting loose by indulging in a guilty pleasure: watching the talk show Maury. Lately, she's also started visiting dance clubs with friends, including Club Pantheon on Meeting Street, where she says an assortment of drag queens showed her up on the dance floor.

"They were really funny," she says. "They really could drop it like it's hot."

All these experiences at the College have taught this former wallflower a valuable life lesson, one she may not have learned at another school.

"No matter where you go, making friends is up to you," Coleman says. "Everything is ultimately up to you."