Marie Moe thinks there's value in small acts of generosity.
"When I look at my life, all the way through, community is such a big part. People you know, people you don't know, just that supporting. That's what I want to be for others," she said. "I want to make that difference too."
Marie Moe is Dickinson State University's director of communications, but more than that, she's a devoted mother of her three biological children and her three foster children.
"We have a big busy house," Moe said. "For Christmas I got a sign that said 'if you think our hands are full you should see our hearts.'"
For Moe, there's not as great a distinction between her passion for foster care and her passion for education—in everything she does, Moe seeks to provide opportunities for those who otherwise may not have them.
"In both things that I do, working in higher education and in foster care, I think that's the nexus point. I think education is transformational," she said. "It's an equalizer, it provides an opportunity. Foster care, I've really become aware of the fact that ... only two percent of foster care alumni graduate college. I want to look at these two passions in my life and work here, I say here DSU but here globally in education, to try and figure out what we can do to try and support this at-risk group of students."
During her childhood, Moe's family was, for a short period of time, a foster family in Arizona. The experience stayed with her when she moved to California for school. While studying, she went on a trip to Romania, where she helped at an orphanage. It was the first time she'd experienced abject poverty, and she felt her heart moved to do more for these children in that time.
"There was a young boy there, he was 11, he had been orphaned ... and I wanted to take him home with me," Moe said. "There was something inside me that said 'I want to be there for these people on their dark days.'"
Moe met her husband in college and dropped out in her junior year to marry him and take what was originally intended to be a short break. Their five-year plan to wait to have children took a slight detour, and Moe said that they ended up having three children over those first five years.
"I think kids are a blessing and I wouldn't trade my kids for the world," Moe said. It was also during this time that Marie's husband, Jared, was hurt in a workplace accident, and was left unable to continue his work in construction.
"Our worlds just kind of flipped. It was hard, it was dark," Moe said. She had to immediately seek work. Moe went into a temp agency and began taking whatever work she could find.
"One day I found myself shredding paper," she said, "and I thought to myself 'I have three years of college and no degree.'"
Moe started taking college courses on the weekends and caring for her husband and children during the week, in addition to working to support the family.
It was during this time that Moe met a woman who would push her on the path toward higher education.
"There was a woman at the university named Patty and ... my goal at the time was to get a degree so I could get a better job and support my family. Patty came along, she was the dean of the program, and she taught one of the classes ," Moe recalled. "She reached out to me and said 'Marie, I think you really have something special.'"
Moe was incredulous, saying she was barely hanging on as it was, and certainly didn't feel special. Yet Patty's encouragement helped see her through some challenges.
"She's one of the people who I think of who over the course of your life ... they call something out in you that maybe you don't see," Moe said.
Through times when Moe considered dropping out of the program, Patty continued to push her to finish.
"When I graduated, she gave me a job. It was that job that gave me the foundation for my family. My husband was able to go back and get retraining ... we were both employed at jobs that can support a family and supply a future. He now works in sales, which was always his goal. I ended up continuing to work in education, and always with this desire to help somebody else the way somebody had helped me."
The kindness of others has continually made an impact on Moe's life. Right after her husband's injury, she was at risk of being unable to pay the heating bill. She came home one day and found packages stacked high on her front porch.
"It was snowing, it was wet—and I knew they weren't for me, I didn't order anything and I don't have any money! (But) as it turns out, all of these packages are addressed to me. I think there were 11 boxes in general. I opened the first one and it was a box full of diapers."
A church in Utah, Moe said, had found out about her family's circumstances, and adopted them for Christmas. It's a moment that defines what community really means for Moe. That spirit of generosity seems to lie within Dickinson as well, as she sees it.
"I've been so overwhelmingly impressed by our community, how from daycare to doctors, in every aspect, if you think of school, medical, social ... everyone has come around like a family in their role to create safe environments for these kids," Moe said. "I think in the deeply embedded fabric of this community is that value of care for others. It just perpetuates itself. I think it's a great fit for me, I just love it here. It aligns very well with my personal values."