PCC 2014 Gateway to College Commencement Speech

Thursday, April 23, 2015

PCC_OR_Grad_2014 (326)By Nicole, PCC Gateway to College Grad, 2014

What I’m going to tell you describes my experience at Gateway, but is mainly just a love story.

Before the age of seventeen, I didn’t understand the concept of academic success. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to do well in school. I thought it was an inherent ability that unfortunately, I didn’t have. Because of this idea, throughout my almost entire academic career, I taught myself that I was stupid. My actions began to reflect this thought until it became apparent that I was a bad student. By the time high school came around, I had already developed habits that were detrimental to my performance in school. I was constantly missing classes, not participating when I was in class, did absolutely no homework, and rarely completed in-class assignments, all the while becoming increasingly frustrated at my teachers, my peers, and mostly myself. No matter how hard I, or anyone else tried to force myself to do better-- even just a little-- I couldn’t do it. Looking back, the most frustrating thing was the fact that nobody understood what I was going through. Nobody even tried to understand. Not one single person.

One day, I stumbled upon a Gateway to College brochure and out of utter hopelessness, I decided to attend an information meeting. Little did I know, that was possibly the best decision I have ever made. I learned all about Gateway and the opportunities and support it provided for students struggling under the public school system. It didn’t even cross my mind that a change in environment was all that I needed, and I had never even considered going to college. I left the meeting feeling inspired. I immediately signed up, and before I knew it, college became a reality. I started Gateway the fall term of what would’ve been my senior year of high school. Over the course of the first few days, my perspective on school shifted. I learned the way teachers were there to support me without judgment. I learned that all of my classmates were going through similar experiences as I was. And most importantly, I discovered that hey, maybe I’m not stupid.

I still remember the moment I received my first grade report. My knee-jerk reaction was to toss it in the trash before it got into the hands of my mother, but then I realized that no one was there to supervise me anymore. I was on my own. I slowly opened the packet and peered into it, all the while coming up with elaborate excuses as to why these assignments weren’t completed. But when I saw the report, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had all A’s! I reviewed my work in awe. I did this? I did this! I. I analyzed them the whole way home as I silently cried. I felt progressively moved. I had never felt so strongly about anything before. I wanted to feel this good and this capable forever. Then something wonderful happened… I fell in love with school. It was a snowball effect from that moment forward. I went from having a 0.7 GPA to a steady 3.98 GPA throughout my entire college career while working full-time. And the best part? Nobody was forcing me to do this. I wanted to do this, I loved doing this, and I was surrounded by loads of support. I couldn’t have been successful without the support of my peers, my teachers, and Jane! Oh, Jane. Jane Larson folks, let me tell ya. Jane was my advisor for Gateway to College. She helped me every-- I mean, every step of the way. She made me do a lot of things I didn’t want to do, one of them being thinking about my future, which was something I had never really contemplated before. I decided that I’d like to get my associate’s degree then transfer to a 4-year college and eventually begin a career in my birthplace, Hong Kong. Thank you, Jane.

I believe that my story speaks for itself. My experience at Gateway to College changed my life irrevocably. I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be the same person not having gone through those experiences.

We all have our own stories. We’ve all learned different things throughout our lives and we’ll continue to learn until we die. What we share are these memories, struggles, dreams, and achievements. And nobody can take those things away from us.

With that said, Gateway to College Class of 2014, I wish you luck, you’re all so awesome in your own ways, and I congratulate each and every one of you because God knows, it’s been one hell of a journey.


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