I’m very pleased to say that after two years of beginning my journey at Whatcom Community College, I have officially graduated with an Associate in Liberal Arts degree. I went out with an Associate in Arts and Science transfer degree in mind, but I’m quite content and pleased with my decision to change it.
I want to summarize my journey, with the essay I wrote for the President’s Award Scholarship:
It’s spring. The sky is dark in typical Washington spring weather, the clouds smoldering overhead while the sun edges through, casting a sepia hue over the lush green foliage. I have just closed the Writing Center for the weekend, knowing that I’m drawing down to the last few weeks spent in Cascade 112 at Whatcom Community College.
The decision to return to school was the best I’ve ever made, though I cannot neglect my initial decision to delay my higher education for ten years. When I graduated from Bellingham High School in 2005, I didn’t have any ability to focus on school. I had a hunger to experience life outside the classroom, away from my parents’ watchful eyes. And so off I drifted, to North Wales where I experienced a culture riddled with slight differences, snowballing to a topsy-turvy package of lessons about life.
When I returned to Bellingham after four years, I delved into a completely different work environment than the waitressing I had been doing abroad. I entered into the world of care-giving, working directly with adults living with developmental disabilities. Through this work, which kept hold of me for another four years, I got to know and work with people experiencing various degrees of autism, Down/s Syndrome, radiation poisoning, stroke victims, and those were both deaf and blind. There I met some of the most caring, extraordinary people, whose disabilities contributed their unique personalities and beautiful ways of viewing the world. Considering these times as well as the current tutoring I do with other individuals harboring disabilities, the appreciation for my experiences swells. Sitting at the keyboard now, I hear each of their voices that have brought a deeper comprehension of humanity and the vast array of minds that make up our human experience, all flowing through me. It is they who taught me one of my most valued lessons: understanding.
Through a tumbling of seemingly unfortunate events, I found my way back to Whatcom Community College, returning after having been a Running Start student ten years prior. While during my high school years I hadn’t taken school seriously, I was determined to do things differently. My goal was to transfer to Western with an English degree. Once I realized that I could do well in school, I decided to challenge myself. With my dual nationality to aid me, I began looking at top-ranked universities in England.
My persistence paid off with my first affirmation that I was on the right track: becoming a member of the Phi Theta Kappa society. This spurred my application to become a writing assistant at WCC’s Writing Center, an experience which opened me to the possibility-turned-reality of presenting at the 2015 National Conference of Peer Tutors in Writing. It was my presentation on Extreme Multi-Modality which convinced the student senate to fund Sherri Winans and me on our journey to Salt Lake City in November, where the conference was held. Shortly after submitting a proposal to this conference, I was nominated and selected for the annual Award of Excellence in the English Discipline in 2015. It was presented to me by my unofficial mentor, Nathan Franklin, who inspired me to be all that I could be, as well as to help others along their own campaigns to greatness.
Keeping this in mind, I agreed when Jason Babcock asked if I would be interested in being a part of his Mentorship pilot course. He had designed a class which would enable students who had college “figured out” to help other students who were struggling. Another staff member of the Writing Center and I helped to shape the course, figuring out what the class was lacking, what its strengths were, and so on, to help create something that would mold great students into great mentors.
School was not the only area where I pushed myself. During this time I was, and continue to be, involved with Gothberg Farms, a goat farm in Bow which produces quality, artisan goat cheese. Rhonda and Roy Gothberg have been a constant support and inspiration to me, and have taught me countless lessons. I have always had a passion for supporting local businesses, though through my interactions and work with them, I have a better understanding of the local agriculture. I have a close tie with the community during the farmers markets, and support the neighboring farms and stands. It is through our local businesses that our communities thrive in a healthy and diverse manner.
Of course, our community also thrives through education, which led me to participate in an ad hoc committee which spoke to senators and representatives about gaining funding for WCC’s future Learning Commons. After working in the Writing Center, it is easy to see the influence we make simply by being available to students. However, our resources could be more, and the Learning Commons represents the possibilities of what we could be, and how we could better serve the Whatcom County community as a whole. With the availability of support for students entering college for the first time or returning to college, at every level, we could provide direct support for any learning need, and all in one comfortable location.
These experiences gave me the confidence to apply and eventually get accepted to Durham University, whose English department recently ranked higher than Oxford and Cambridge. Though I was thrilled, the time ticking by left me nervous. Through the evolution of my academic self, I realized that publishing was really my passion, and thus my aim of employment. I needed projects which would help me achieve that goal once I finally made it to the end of my college career. I spent time working with Sherri on publishing students’ work on Hubpages, an online article platform. We wanted to showcase the beautiful and intellectual works of WCC students, and bring them to life with multiple mediums including music, photos, videos and of course, links for more information. However, this didn’t fully satiate my needs; I wanted to do more. I decided that I wanted to create a non-profit, student-run magazine, which would focus purely on writing. It would encompass the creativity of students, the passions of students, and the knowledge of students. The shape of the project was designed to be easily handed off to the next wave of students. It was something was would be open to any students of Whatcom and Skagit counties, whether in high school or finishing up their PhD. Not only was this to showcase their work, it was to help them build their resumes in creative writing, academic writing, editing, publishing, design, and so on. It is currently in the very beginning stages.
And now, as I sit in the empty, silent Writing Center, reflecting on the last two years, I am in disbelief. It’s not uncommon for me to think back to my high school self, and the beliefs and thoughts I had on life. I want to go back and simply say, “You should see what you’re doing in ten years. Keep going.” I experienced some fierce hardships and harsh lessons during my earlier adult years; I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They contributed to who I am now. Every moment, every direction of step, every time I turned left when I normally turn right, brought me to this moment, right now, typing these words. I plan to go on and continue pushing myself when I arrive at Durham. I hope to help others who are away from their parents for the first time, to discover their potential, just as I did my own.