For those of you who follow my writing here at dailykos, you know that I have been going to community college on and off for about 3 years now. A couple of weeks ago, I finally was awarded my degree from my community college, and today, I had my first class at Western Oregon University. Normally, I would not write about such a mundane event, but today has special significance to me, and I guess I thought I would share that significance with you.
Going to a University and getting educated has always been my dream. As a boy, my parents were extremely poor and had very little. They certainly didn't have the money to put away every month for each and every one of their five kids for college. So, it was a foregone conclusion in my house that each kid would get a job and begin a career after high school. Although I didn't want to get a job right after high school, I always thought my lot in life would be to work a menial job at very little pay and hopefully be able to start a family on my meager paycheck. College was never really a possibility, and as tuition started to skyrocket in the 90's the light at the end of the tunnel that was higher education got dimmer and dimmer and dimmer for me.
My junior year of high school, I decided to check out the prices of colleges anyway. It was my dream, after all, how would I feel if I never chased it? So I went around looking at colleges, universities and trade schools just to get the feel for them. One thing was abundantly clear from the beginning: there was NO way I could afford this. I mean, these recruiters and admissions offices were talking about ASTRONOMICAL amounts of money. I mean, I thought some of these people were fucking joking. 4,000 dollars a term? Not including books, room, board etc etc etc? How in the hell would I ever pay that much. The other thing that was clear was this: I have a 2.55 GPA. I barely made the admissions requirement for most universities, let alone the scholarship requirements. I didn't play sports. I wasn't in student government. I had nothing going for me. So again, I thought to myself "No fucking way this is happening" and resigned myself to a menial, minimum wage "career"
A few years later, after I graduated, I had just gotten discharged from the USAF and I was floating around waiting for a job to fall out of the sky. I applied everywhere and finally ended up at a T-Mobile Call center. One day, my fiancee and I were playing hooky from our terrible jobs and went to Newberg, Oregon for the day. We were sitting in an arby's eating lunch when we started discussing what we wanted to do with our lives. I had said that it had always been a dream of mine to get a doctorate and do something great. That conversation opened a door that I never, EVER thought would be opened again, and that day I started on a path that eventually led me here, at Western Oregon University's library.
The night after we went to Newberg for the day, I applied for financial aid, and enrolled at my local community college. To my surprise, financial aid would pay for it. All. Although I had to get loans, the grants I would get would pay for about half of my schooling. It took 3 years of struggle, hardship, poverty and strife to get me through that school. The professors there pushed my writing, time management, math, science, and critical analysis skills to their absolute limits. I even flunked a few classes. In the end, I was awarded my Transfer degree.
There is no way I could have graduated without the option of going to community college for the first two years. There is no way I could have done it without the Federal Pell Grant, or the Oregon Opportunity grant. These federal and state programs aren't just fat to be cut from the bone, these programs have REAL effects on REAL people. They give an opportunity to someone (like me) who, without them, would have never been able to pay the outrageous prices some of these colleges are asking just for a quality education. Without the grants, I would just be another smart guy looking for an opportunity to succeed.
Which brings me to today. I am here at the WOU Library. I did it, and there is so much more to do. But for right now, I celebrate. I am well on my way to realizing my dream. And I want you guys to celebrate with me, because you all have kept me sane for so long. I have no idea what I would do without my dailykos breaks in between long stretches of reading, or long hours of studying. This website helped me through some of my toughest times in school. This website made me sharp as a goddamned whip, and I really don't think I could have gone this far without this place. I really, really don't.
4:02 PM PT: I am in class guys, so I wont be able to respond to comment. But thanks for all the love!