Like many high school seniors nowadays, I sat through my graduation ceremony in my cap and gown without a clue about my future. This is obviously not ideal; however, I barely graduated due to a debilitating illness that overtook my final year of public school. To put it simply, I was worn out and further schooling didn’t seem appealing, particularly with no direction in mind. So, I took a part time job at a small real estate appraisal company.
After several months of working, my boss began to ask me questions about my intentions with my education. I didn’t have the finances nor motivation, but he insisted that sitting in his office was a waste of my time and intelligence. As a first generation college student, I (unlike my peers) didn’t receive any badgering about college and my future from my parents: they wanted me to work my way up the ladder just like they did. But my boss’ comment inspired me, and I began to do research. I learned about the FAFSA and the support it provides to low-income students like myself. With the help of these stepping stones, I enrolled in night classes at my local community college.
I remember hearing adults tell me how different college is from high school, and that there is simply no comparison. Even in community college, I felt a breath of fresh air. I was extraordinarily successful in my classes, but I was still unsure of my career pathway. I knew I only intended on completing my Associates of Arts & Sciences degree at Columbia Basin College, but then what?
The University of Washington had always been my dream—since I was just 13—but it seemed intangible. My self-identity while growing up wasn’t much, but community college inspired me to be much more than the label my family or peers put on me. Besides learning biology, psychology, English, French, and history, I learned an immense amount about myself: I was successful. Why? Because I wanted to be, because I am a capable, independent young woman—I just didn’t realize it. Community College inspired growth within my mind and my confidence. With this new attitude, I decided that no dream was without of my reach. My only limits are the ones I confined myself within.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Although my financial aid package paid for my tuition, I knew I needed to save money. I kept my day job, but I picked up a second job at night in order to support my living situation while in school. I worked tremendously hard; I made sacrifices in the name of bettering myself and my situation in life. And it was entirely worth it.
The day I got “The Big Envelope” in the mail—you know the one, yellow with purple paw prints—was the moment I had been waiting for. Everything I had been working for in my life had led up to this point. The happiness I felt was completely overwhelming, my dreams were becoming real.
However, my journey doesn’t stop here—of course not. Now it is truly beginning. I saw the signs around campus advertising Dream Project, and I knew my story could inspire students who struggled and came from a similar situation as myself. The first DP lecture I attended was about community colleges. I learned even more about myself: that I beat the odds, that I made the smart, economical decision. Community college helped to shape me into a successful, confident and well-rounded individual. I would encourage all students to consider this as a part of their educational plan. It is the best decision I have ever made. My future is no longer a question mark.
–Kiley Harvey, Dream Project mentor