Whether you are graduating this year or in the future, I hope you take a minute to remember those who have fought tooth and nail to graduate from college as well as those who were never afforded the opportunity.
Grow up, go to college, get a job, get married, have children, work until you retire, and die. This is the unquestionable natural progression of life even though the very notion is challenged regularly. It’s difficult to exist for those who live life out of this order.
Only 30 percent of Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Let that sink in.
In Podunk America, people spend their lives working and never think about getting a degree. Men work in the factory or power plant or what have you just like their fathers, and women have children. I had my first kid three weeks after I turned 20. Where I come from, that was the natural progression of life.
I am a 31-year-old mother of two. I come from an America where poverty binds everyone in the community. Where chips and a bologna sandwich was a good meal and sometimes we had to turn off the lights and play the “silent game” so the landlord didn’t know we were home.
I put myself through school as a single mother and later married into an entirely different America (isn’t that a cliché if you’ve ever heard one).
In this “new” America, I find myself in awe of all the opportunities I never knew existed including Elmhurst College. I also find myself feeling uncomfortable navigating this different way of life and even embarrassed to have “escaped” in such a manner. Not that I wanted to escape, I just wanted a degree. Now I don’t fit in, in my old life or my new one.
I can’t help but wonder, as I gorge myself on this education buffet, how many more people are out there dreaming of a degree as if it’s the same as dreaming of fame or winning the lottery.
Lately, I have heard talk of students on campus who can’t afford food regularly. Yet here they are, starving for their education. Others are sacrificing equally in other ways. Can you honestly say you have ever wanted anything that much?
Some students can’t join clubs or extracurricular activities, they can’t volunteer to help others when they are the ones who need help, they can’t apply for prestigious programs and optional opportunities because that is yet another luxury.
I just want to say, I see every single one of you and I am sorry that your efforts are not openly recognized as amazing. You’re the ones who should be asked to awards banquets.
I was provided a wonderful education at EC. I have met many mentors and become friends with the most interesting people. I appreciate those here who understand what being a first generation college student is really like. In them and in The Leader, I found solace.