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Reality Check: Envisioning My Success
Anxiety, fear, and shame were just a few of the emotions running through my body as I pondered re-enrolling in college to pursue my dream of working with youth. Did I have what it took to finish? What would people say about me? Many might think that enrolling in community college at 32 years old isn’t the most glamorous path to take. However, I decided that my future and that of my son mattered more than what others might think. After researching Prince George’s Community College (PGCC), I knew I had found the place for me. The location was perfect, the cost affordable, and the online classes provided needed flexibility for my schedule. As I registered for my first classes, I knew that this decision would have a profound effect on my future.
My first semester was both challenging and life changing. The curriculum forced me to think more critically about my assignments and life around me. My nutrition professor had obtained several advanced degrees and instilled in my fellow classmates and me that we had the ability to do the same. After meeting with an advisor, I worked to attain scholarships and map out my plan for life beyond Prince George’s Community College. This was my first encounter with the notion of “envisioning success.” Academic excellence became paramount and my anxiety, fear, and shame completely subsided.
At the end of my first year, I received an e-mail seeking applicants for positions on the college Campus Activities Board—a student group charged with creating and implementing campus-wide social, recreational and cocurricular events for the college community. As I perused the options, I decided to apply for the position of president. I was hesitant, due to my age, but after speaking with the advisor, I was encouraged to apply. His encouragement made the difference and, after an intense interview, I was hired for the upcoming school year. At this point my cocurricular journey began, which gave me a full collegial experience. Academics coupled with extracurricular activities helped me develop a multidimensional way of viewing the world. The programs provided by the Office of College Life Services provided me with the necessary training and hands on experience to achieve this goal.
I was invited by the program director of College Life Services to join a leadership program, which I was told would provide skills that are highly sought after by employers. This was yet another moment where staff stepped in and showed me a path directly connected to my vision of success. Living and working with the homeless in Orlando, Florida; scraping soap that would be recycled and given to the poor; and being trained in Atlanta, Georgia, to teach others to work across diverse cultures and faiths to fight social injustices are just a few of the leadership and community service experiences I have had at PGCC. I have not only had the chance to help others, I have also gained skills to develop and execute campaigns that directly impact my community.
As I ponder graduating next semester and share stories of my experiences at PGCC , people marvel at the opportunities available in a community college. I share with them that PGCC is more than a college; it is a community center offering free programs and workshops to county residents. Whether a student is just graduating from high school, attaining certifications for career advancement, or pursuing higher education later in life, PGCC offers opportunity at all levels. Access to education can change one’s trajectory in life. I implore students to dream big and envision what success looks like to them. Then they must take their dreams and hone the skills needed to realize their visions. The world needs what they have to offer.
Kelly Davidson is a student at Prince George’s Community College.