This I Believe

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Essays

I’m not what you would call an average community college student. Since kindergarten, I’ve received the best private school education money can buy. When I graduated from my prep school in the spring of 2010, I watched as my classmates excitedly prepared for successful academic careers at top-tier institutions: Williams, NYU, USC, BU, Cornell, Amherst, Trinity, Holy Cross, Georgetown, UPenn, Princeton, and so on. My name, however, did not appear on the matriculation list; I had no idea where I’d be in three months.

I had a B average and a kick-ass SAT, so Roger Williams offered me some money, and I even got accepted to Wheaton, but in the end my parents simply couldn’t continue spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on my education. As my father put it, “I’m not going to burn 50 grand a year just so you can write poetry.” That July, I enrolled in Bristol Community College (BCC). Now, like my friends, I walk to class every day, but only because my house is five blocks from the campus.

Where I came from, community college was a joke; I even invoked it as an insult to a blonde in my history class senior year. As far as I was concerned, it was reserved exclusively for morons and slackers. When people asked, I hesitated to tell them where I went. When I did tell them, I was usually met by a patronizing, sympathetic, “oh… well good for you.” I was quick to write off all my classes as sub-par and my classmates as unintelligent.

But I know better now. I knew it after just a few weeks. Not only are they intelligent, but also passionate. Yes, there are morons and slackers… there are always morons and slackers. But I’m in the same boat as almost everyone else, though we had taken different paths.

This I believe: the students at community colleges aren’t morons and slackers; some of us are just lost.

Many of us work full-time jobs, and hope that education can open doors we don’t even know exist. Some of us take refuge from a society that shuns us or thinks us subordinate. Some of us simply don’t want to waste money trying to figure out what we’re going to spend the rest of our lives doing. Some of us come to recover from drug addictions, improve our minds and embrace a community. Some of us need a new way to support sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, siblings, or parents. Some of us come to set an example.

Some of us are here because we have no place else to go.

Sure, it’s been a culture shock –no one in prep school ever asked if court dates counted as excusable absences– but it’s a culture I’ve now embraced. I’m not being paid to say this, and I have no reason to lie: I’m proud to be a Community College student. I see and understand the prejudice held against my classmates and myself. It’s okay. We may be lost, but we’ll find our way.

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