Looking back 19 years, I was a first-generation college student lacking focus, not knowing my purpose, my passion or where to begin to find my way through my higher educational journey. My biological parents divorced when I was five years old, leaving my mother to raise me as a single parent. She worked tirelessly to provide me with everything I needed (food, shelter, clothing).
I remember my mother telling me at a young age, “Angela, I want you to go to college and make more of yourself than I did. Do not follow in my footsteps. I want you to be better than I am.”
This advice resonated with me and I knew my drive and ambition to pursue and receive a quality college education were a part of my calling, the gateway to the person I was striving to become. Being the first person in my family to go to college meant the pressure was on—at least that is how it felt.
With the support of my family, I knew that going to college was only the beginning of my journey. There were many roadblocks along the way, but in the end, I overcame. I faced many challenges throughout my educational journey and it took me three years to finish a traditional two-year A.A. degree at Tacoma Community College. I tested at a remedial level in math and reading and this meant I needed to complete entry-level courses before moving on to college-level classes. I remember feeling frustrated, as though I was not good enough and that I could not possibly make it to the finish line.
However, during my second year at TCC, I got involved with Student Programs and worked as the Entertainment Coordinator for the student body. Working in this capacity, I found a support system through fellow student workers and supervisors. During this time, I had an extremely traumatic family-related event take place in my life. If it had not been for the support of my supervisor, campus counselors, and friends, I would have quit school and left the State of Washington. Instead, I stuck it out and graduated with honors in the spring of 2001.
In the fall of 2001 I transferred to UW Tacoma and it was quite the adjustment coming to a university from a community college setting. I struggled to find my niche in the university setting. My desire to be involved on campus dwindled during my first year as I wrestled between finding out what I wanted to major in, who I was as an individual, and how to maintain my academic studies. I struggled with my writing assignments and I was too afraid to reach out and ask for help, especially when I needed it most.
During my second year at UW Tacoma, however, I decided to get involved. I joined the Black Student Union and served as the secretary for two quarters. It was during this time that I made connections and felt as though I belonged here. I began to feel welcomed and embraced the ideals of what it meant to be a part of a community much greater than myself. In the spring of 2001, I graduated with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a focus in Political Economy (now known as Politics, Philosophy.& Economics).
Upon graduation, I discovered my passion for people and the communities around them, and how they too can find their passion and purpose in this world. More importantly, how could I contribute to the educational and academic success of children within my community who may one day face similar academic challenges and educational roadblocks? In 2015 I was accepted to the M.Ed. program here at UW Tacoma and will graduate in spring 2017. Over the last year and a half, working on my graduate degree has given me the chance to utilize my full potential as an employee of UW Tacoma and as a graduate student.
My advice for UW Tacoma students is, first, to believe in yourself and that you can accomplish every idea and dream you have for yourself. Always strive to overcome obstacles because they will come, that is inevitable. However, it is not the challenge or obstacle that makes the difference in your life, it is how you handle those challenges that makes the greatest impact and leaves a lasting impression on the individual you are striving to become. You can reach your greatest potential if you only believe. You must believe!