The Best Gift

by | May 1, 2017 | On a Personal Note

May, the season for graduations: a time for ceremonious goodbyes and nerve-racking beginnings. Whether you are a graduating high school senior or a college graduate, I understand your apprehension and excitement of being on the brink of starting anew. I first graduated from Arkansas Tech in 2015 with a journalism degree and now two years later I’m about to graduate for the second time with my masters in multimedia journalism. I’m still not for certain what I want to do when I grow up, and that’s OK. As my own graduation date draws near, I’ve spent time reflecting on my last six years at Arkansas Tech and how far I’ve come since high school.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s pause for a second and rewind back to May of 2011. A newly graduated senior from Charleston High School with the big wide world at my feet, my biggest fear at the time wasn’t moving out of my parents’ house or leaving my hometown. It was the worry of how I would be able to find the funds to pay for all four years of college. My two main goals for college were: to keep good grades and somehow receive as much financial assistance as feasibly possible. That way my parents wouldn’t have to borrow money for my education. Whether it’s credit card debt or mortgages, I would say having debt is fairly common in American households. And I honestly understand the toil it can take on a family to pay off those debts and still manage to make ends meet. Coming from my background, I set out for college with the determination to avoid student debt like the plague.
Luckily for me, I will be graduating with zero student debt. This is largely due to scholarships I’ve applied for and received over the years along with support from my family. Outside of academic scholarships from Arkansas Tech, I received many smaller scholarships from individuals from my community in Charleston and Russellville.
Thinking back, many of the scholarships I received from the community were dedicated to the memory of passed loved ones. I always thought it was a special way to honor a loved one by helping a student in the community reach for their goals and dreams. I haven’t forgotten those families that helped me reach mine.
I believe it takes a village to propel young people who might not have the necessary means. I’m an example of that. If it wasn’t for working as a student worker, later a graduate assistant at Arkansas Tech, and receiving those academic and community scholarships in the beginning, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today. My parents and grandparents have also helped pave the way for me to accomplish my dreams of an education. They weren’t able to help out all the time, but when they were able to help out, even if it was 20 bucks for gas money, it was still very much appreciated. And I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough.
I believe the biggest gift a parent can give their child is an education. This gift is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I am the first in my nuclear family to graduate from college and the first to graduate with a master’s degree. Words cannot express how meaningful their love and support has been over the past six years, and I know they are just as excited to see me graduate and start the next part of my life as I am. In a way, I feel like we have all earned a college degree together.
I believe education is a powerful tool in changing the world and when people come together in the efforts of education they can ultimately change the trajectory of a student’s life. What a gift to bestow on someone. I will always be grateful for the financial support I have received from Arkansas Tech, my community and my family. I really don’t think I would have made it this far without it. And now I’m ready to pay it forward and leave a positive, lasting impact on the world.

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