Before I came into the Onward Program, I would describe my life as going nowhere. I was working at a dead-end job, doing data entry at a heavy-duty truck dealership. The highest I had gone with my education was high school, and I barely made it through that. My peers have always considered me relatively intelligent, but my marks and self-esteem reflected quite the opposite. On top of it all, I had no interest in furthering my education whatsoever. My family life wasn’t the best, and the only thing on my mind was getting out on my own, away from people telling me what I could and could not do.
The “turning point” that motivated me to pursue my education was the realization of my “idle status.” No matter how hard I worked, or how much I learned at my various jobs, I was becoming more aware of the fact that I was always going to be at the bottom of the corporate ladder, or at best the lower-middle. Without a degree, I would never be able to achieve what I knew I was capable of. More importantly, I was becoming aware of what exactly I wanted to do with my life, and it wasn’t data entry.
Just before I heard about the Onward Program, I was having massive panic attacks in the hallways of the local high school. I had started taking night classes, trying to prepare myself for college. I decided that I wanted to be an engineer, but no college would accept me for lack of college-preparatory courses on my high-school diploma. They didn’t even want to give me a chance. I came to the University of Maine at Orono, and talked to William Munsey in the Admissions Office. He gave me a list of classes that I would need, and sent me on my way. The list was long, and with trying to work fulltime while attending night school, it would’ve taken me three years to complete it. To top it all off I have Social-Anxiety Disorder, along with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I had been out of school for nine years, and I knew NOBODY that I was taking classes with. I was terrified. The thought of continuing on to college, and the further stress and pressure that would mean, made me want to give up. I finished the first two classes I took in night school, and I received very good grades in both. I discovered that I had quite the thirst for knowledge, but I was still petrified at the thought of the long road ahead. I needed to make that road shorter, at whatever cost. Everything or nothing was all I could think about, but there was no possible way for me to do this. Then I heard about the Onward Program. They took me by the hand, and showed me that I wasn’t alone. There were other people that were in the same situation as I,.and they; were doing it. They were really doing it. If it wasn’t for the support network of Onward; the staff, students, and the program itself, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I wouldn’t have the confidence or the drive to succeed as I now know I can. I made Dean’s List last semester, with a 3.92 GPA. If it wasn’t for this incredible program, I wouldn’t have been able to even sit in a classroom. They have nurtured my potential, and now I know there is truly no limit to what I can do. There is no limit to what anybody can do for that matter.
My future educational plans include graduating from the University of Maine with degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Post-Secondary Education. After that, who knows? I seem to have become addicted to learning.
My life will never be the same. I will never read an article in a magazine and toss it aside again. I now think analytically about most everything. I can no longer take things at face value; I have a need to look deeper for hidden content, and for the author’s opinion that may or may not have been intentionally expressed. By completing this most important chapter in my life, I will be balanced. Not only will I be financially stable, I’ll be spiritually complete. Not only will I be a better asset for society, I’ll be a better citizen in it.
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