Friday, May 25, 2012

This is why I work here

Thought I would share some words of wisdom from one of our students who is an SCC Ambassador and a returning learner. She bottomed out in life and joined us last year to start anew. She was just accepted into Phi Theta Kappa, tutors, is active in Science Club and is always available to help 'at risk' high school students, because she can relate. She was awarded the Trustee Scholarship only to find out she is closer to her degree than she thought and will be moving on to UMSL in the Spring. She does not want to leave because she feels she can do more here but she has completed her degree much sooner than she expected. Yes, she is a returning learner...

Shivering, I sat in my car and stared at the front door of the building. The windshield fogged over with my breath as I watched people exit the double glass doors with carts filled with food. I knew that I shouldn’t be ashamed, that everyone else was in the same position that I was in.

I reached for the handle of the door once again, pushing myself to get out of the car this time, to be brave. I didn’t want to be there, I doubt anyone wants to be where I was. I had plans, I was going to be somebody, and this was not the person I wanted to be. I would like to convey why I got to this place, and where I want to be.

This is my second chance attending college. Fresh out of high school I went away to college, I was bright and being in the Gifted and Talented program in high school afforded me many scholarships... But I was naïve and, dare I say, I had too many scholarships.

I am one of five children of a single mother. Our mother was an addict to many things including gambling and substances. I moved 24 times before I turned 18. I raised my brothers through much of their young life, living in a trailer and serving microwave banquet meals. I vowed when I was younger to go to college and get a degree. Neglecting my studies, I dropped out, losing those scholarships I now know mean everything to a lower class student. I moved to Florida, eventually met my husband, and married the best man I have ever met. Together we decided to return to school.

Returning is hard, not just to readjust the way you spend your time, but monetarily. The economy in Florida was bust, we packed up everything in our car, throwing much we owned away, and moved to Missouri. We found jobs, a feat that hadn’t been possible in Florida, and joined SCC. With both of us as full time students, we have not been able to support ourselves fully. Last fall was especially hard, as we had been supported by his parents until October. We both took out full student loans, but the money ran out fast. We paid our rent and bills, and little remained after.

The scene above is from this January. I was sitting outside the Salvation Army food pantry, dreading going inside. Armed with my paycheck stubs, I made my way to the front counter. The woman sitting there smiled at me and told me to sign in. I didn’t know what to write on the sheet, and explained it was my first time there. I stammered as I spoke, on the edge of tears. I was surrounded by those waiting to go inside and receive food. I didn’t expect the reaction I received.

Every person there was just like me, or worse, and everyone smiled at me, and reassured me. We exchanged stories, and gave each other support. Those who were in a worse state than I still hadn’t lost their optimism. They had nothing to give, so they gave their hearts. They gave me determination. I want to succeed for them, for those out there who are suffering and who still have a smile for a nervous stranger.

Next month I will be able to volunteer at the food pantry, I have to wait until I am no longer considered a client. I am no longer too proud to admit that I cannot go through this on my own. I plan to make a difference, and even small things can change someone’s life. We live, we learn, and we continually make ourselves into better, wiser people.  

Last week, my Ambassador shared with me proudly that she is no longer a client and has started volunteering at the Salvation Army. She plans to continue to do so twice a week to pay back and I have no doubt will influence another to follow in her footsteps.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This is the kind of story that we like to hear. What an inspiration.