“In a word I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail.” – Marshall “Major” Taylor
There is no denying that Graduating College is an amazing milestone. Everyone’s journey to getting to that stage however, is very different. My experience in particular, I am proud of.
I graduated high school in 2010. Where I am from, not many people go to college. However, I decided to attend community college. Although my family was very supportive, they couldn’t offer much help because no one before me went to college.
I started this entirely new journey on my own. I remembered being so scared and nervous all the time. I wasn’t confident in who I was and felt I was undeserving of a college education. So, when my second semester of my first year concluded, I decided I would not return. My decision for dropping-out was directly motivated by fear. I feared failure but also the idea that I could succeed. I allowed my insecurities to take flight and what came easiest to me, emerged.
For a year, all I did was work at a job that I knew I would never have a bright future at. Life felt pointless. Waking every morning without dreams, hope, and nothing to look forward to, eventually became the biggest fear I’ve ever known.
I returned to school part-time while also working full time. I took a course or two just to feel alive again—to look forward to something. Loving the feeling of seeing my hard work pay off drove me to commit myself to earning my associates degree. I swore I was done with school my last semester before completion. But then, the desire to push myself farther, kicked in.
After deciding I now wanted a Bachelor’s, I applied to three Universities. In high school, I was rejected by ALL three of these schools. This time, I got into ALL three (I guess it pays off to be on Dean’s List).
However, deciding what school to attend was one of the hardest choices I had to make. Ultimately, finances made the decision for me. Part of the reason none of my family has ever gone to college was because they couldn’t afford to. In the end, I choose the higher education institution that allowed me to keep my full-time job and was closest to home. That way, I could support my education.
When I transferred to William Paterson University of New Jersey, It became obvious, I belonged there. I knew I made the right choice when I discovered the University’s nickname was “Pioneers”.
I was awarded a partial scholarship and I eventually quit my job and went to school full-time. I had to take out more loans, but I manage. This gave me an opportunity to not only be a college student, but also be present on campus by participating in clubs and events.
Upon completing my Bachelor’s degree, I made Dean’s list every semester, graduated with Latin Honors, made lifelong friendships, and discovered my true self and true purpose. It took me nearly six years to finish College, but it was worth it. Today, I have two degrees and I am proud of who I am. I plan to start my Master’s next year. Not bad for a First-generation College graduate, I suppose.
Being a first-generation college graduate will forever be a label I will be honored to carry. I am a PIONEER.
Watch this inspiring video about other first-generation college students.
In the words of Alicia Keys, “This girl is on fire”. My trail is burning bright. Set the fire in your heart ablaze and see where it takes you.