Don’t let college pass you by: A hero’s origin story

   Illustration by Allan Garcia-Ramos/The ETCetera

 

 

As easy as some people may think community college is compared to a prestigious university, it’s still new and different.

Whether you’re here because plans failed or a financial situation or even if you’re like me and had no idea what you were doing after high school, I say you’re in the right place.

My senior year of high school was quite eventful. I was getting ready to graduate and probably never see my friends again. I was nervous and afraid of what was to come. Although I applied to many colleges, I knew I wouldn’t go to any because — big shocker — I was young, dumb and broke. I didn’t take advantage of all the scholarships available to kids in my situation. If you have traditional uber-attached Hispanic parents like me, they probably didn’t want you to leave home yet either.

I wasn’t ready to sit in classes with dozens of kids and live in a dorm, so I stayed close to home and signed up for classes at Eastfield.

I started fall semester 2015. Still lost and on autopilot, I let an adviser choose my program of study.

I didn’t know who I wanted to be, but now an associate of science was my program of study.

I didn’t know what classes to choose or if they even counted toward something. I ended up with biology for science majors at 6:30 a.m. four days a week and a class at the Pleasant Grove campus.

I ended up on my own, avoiding contact with people and not trying in class. Sitting alone in the G Building watching Netflix didn’t make me feel any better. It felt like a waste. To further my negative mood, I didn’t even join a club or volunteer anywhere.

I would skip classes regularly for the smallest reasons, and I missed deadlines all the time. I took five classes my first semester and failed two of them.

I wish I could say I learned from that experience, but I didn’t. I thought I could handle my spring semester with no extra effort and failed again. I ended my first year of college on academic probation.

For my second year, I decided it was time to look for help. I visited my adviser, and we both decided I should try taking three classes the next semester. He also prompted me to think about my purpose and get out of autopilot. So I did.

I wanted to be here to take my basics, graduate with an associate degree and transfer to a university. I hoped by then I would have an idea of what my major could be.

In my classes, I began working with classmates. I took notes and used them to study for exams. I learned exams carried a lot of weight in most classes, so I kept an eye out for those. I didn’t skip class, because I learned that I wasn’t someone who could learn and study at home.

I even became friends with a girl from my psychology class named Vanessa. We would sit in the G Building and watch Korean dramas or study.

One day, she saw one of her friends pushing a cart full of newspapers, and we stopped to help. Her name was Martha, an editorial assistant and cartoonist at The Et Cetera. It was the first time I realized Eastfield had a student newspaper.

She suggested we join. Once she mentioned we could do photography, I was in. I had always wanted to learn but could never afford a camera or have anyone to teach me.

As we stepped into the small, cozy closet of a newsroom, I saw all the people working at desks and I envied them. They knew they belonged there, and they loved their work. I didn’t know it, but all of those people would make my college days worthwhile.

I didn’t think joining a student organization could have this much of an impact on me, but it’s made me a journalism major with a sense of responsibility that drives my education. I put myself in a place where people with similar backgrounds and aspirations surround me, which help me stay focused and passionate.

College is for more than writing essays and reading textbooks, it can give you a purpose or incite a passion.

Now, more than two years later, I finished my associate degree knowing that I want to be a visual journalist will attend the University of North Texas this fall.

There are so many people out there willing to share their knowledge, so don’t be afraid to step into a room full of strangers. It’s your turn.

— Yesenia Alvarado is a journalism major and former managing editor for the Et Cetera.

 

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