Both my parents had only a high school education. My father was a military man; my mother was a cashier. I would say we were barely working class. We lived in Bangor, Maine all my life, where I attended public school. I did pretty well in elementary school, both socially and academically. However, in the winter of my sixth grade year my father went to jail for a six-month term. The reason why he had been incarcerated was printed in the newspaper, so everyone in my grade knew. Consequently, I was teased and excluded from my group of friends. I began to hate school, and truancy became an issue. Being on the lower rungs of the “social” class, and having gaps in my knowledge from absences was a problem for the rest of my public school career. I could do well in classes if I had a basic understanding of the topic, so my GPA was a B- when I graduated. But I never tried very hard at anything I did, because I felt whatever I tried would not make a difference. When I graduated I planned to take a year off and work, because I was not really sure what I wanted to do next. I began working as a cashier in a store my mother had worked at previously. If nothing in my life had changed, I would probably still be working as a cashier today, being that I had no training, qualification, or skill to do anything else.
The turning point that motivated me to change was getting pregnant. For the months prior to learning of my pregnancy I ‘partied’ all the times I was not working or sleeping. My boyfriend at the time and I bonded over this lifestyle and had little cares for anything else. Then BANG, fate or some high power intervened. Getting pregnant gave me a cause to want to be different. I think my daughter was sent to rescue me from the hell I had created in my life. Soon after she was born, my boyfriend (her father) and I broke up. I was so scared because I had nothing. I was on welfare, I worked at a minimum wage job were there was no hope of getting benefits or enough money to care from her adequately on my own. The only shot I had was (somehow) getting into college. But my high school grades were not stellar, and my SAT scores were low, so I honestly believed there was no chance. However, Onward stepped in and gave me a chance to succeed by teaching me how.
Onward helped me in so many ways. The most important thing they did for me was believe in me enough to let me in! They must have seen something in me that was different than what I saw in myself at that time, because I thought I had no chance. Once I began school, the staff taught me that I could be successful if I worked hard, and when I did do well they were proud of me. I had all the support I could have asked for during the rocky days of my first year at UMaine. I learned so much from them–everything I needed to do well in my classes. They truly helped me reach–even far surpass–my educational goals because I now keep setting them higher and higher. I still use the skills I learned in Onward to help me in my classes. These skills are so fundamental to my education I do not know what I would do without them.
I have a 3.77 GPA, and have been on the Dean’s List every semester since beginning school here five years ago. I have earned a Presidential Pin and I have placement in the National Collegiate Scholars Association and the Golden Key International Honors society. I will graduate magna cum laude next year.
I am currently a social work major, with a minor in psychology and a concentration in disabilities studies. I plan to graduate this year, but will continue in the fall of 2006 in the MSW program here at UMaine. After I have completely my masters, I plan on going on to law school. When I have completed my college education, I plan on working in advocacy and in participating in some multidisciplinary activities.
My decision to attend college completely changed my life. It gave me a chance to be successful. It gave me the opportunity to prove to myself, my family, and anyone else that I could do it–that I could do anything I wanted to. My decision to attend college will allow me to take care of my daughter for the years to come, to be a professional, to have credentials, and to have a career (not a series of low-income jobs). I will be forever grateful for the chances I have been given to get to where I am today.
Image Description: Kim