I’ve attended four colleges throughout my academic career.
I started at Modesto Junior College, thinking I would get my AA in English. Then we moved to Vegas, and I waited a year to establish residency. I got my transfer credits assessed, and I was further along than I thought. So, I graduated from Community College of Southern Nevada (now known as CSN) with a degree in General Studies.
I figured I’d end up at UNLV. But I did my research and realized that it wasn’t my vibe, but there was a smaller school that was more my vibe. Smaller classes, a longer commute, but easier to schedule around work.
I tried attending school during the 2008 recession, but that was a financial hardship, so I left school. I always worked full-time because I never won scholarships, nor was I eligible for financial aid. It turns out that because I dropped out well beyond that semester’s drop date, I owed significant late fees, and if I wanted to re-enroll, I had to pay everything back. I carefully budgeted my money and chipped away at my outstanding bills before returning to school.
After that nasty bump in the road, I worked hard to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English and History from Nevada State College (recently renamed to Nevada State University).
I then returned to my full-time job and tried to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had spent so much time balancing work and school that I honestly didn’t know who I was when I wasn’t a student anymore.
I wasn’t advancing where I wanted to in my hospitality career, so I started researching master’s programs for a way out. I didn’t want to go far away from home, but I also knew I needed a culture shock to get out of my personal and professional funk. There was one school that constantly floated to the top of my list. I applied for it, and to my great shock, I got in! And I got financial aid, which helped a lot because I moved to San Jose and commuted between work in Mountain View and the City for work.
I graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Master of Fine Arts in Writing. My enduring memory is the woman who read my name at my graduation ceremony and completely butchered it. I cried so hard afterward. My dad wasn’t as mobile by then and couldn’t attend in person, so he and my niece watched online. They saw me walk, and when she announced my name, they asked, “Was that her?” It was mortifying.
I’m proud that I found out what I was capable of with my education. No one in my family finished at a brick-and-mortar college. They’d start classes and then drop out, never finishing. My dad and siblings used their GI bills to fund their college educations, and two of my siblings have MBAs now. But I did everything on my own. I’m proud that I didn’t give up.
I faced some gnarly challenges over the years, but I never once thought to myself, “This is too hard; I can’t do it.” I told myself this happens when you work and go to school full-time, so find a way to make it work.
And I did and I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t push myself to keep moving forward and not give up.
Have courage and be kind,