#Mystory Life Long Learning

Fighting To Finish College: Part 2

Part 1 was the beginning of my college journey…

Update #1: November 2, 2020

My friends and family rallied and helped me raise an additional $225 — bringing my fundraising total to $975. I reached out to a local senator to advocate on my behalf:

  • Good News: October 22, 2020, the Senator’s office forwarded a letter from the Interim Dean and she personally promised to my original graduation agreement — I’m awaiting follow up for my official audit, financial aid, etc.
  • Still On Hold: As of October 30, 2020 we’re still waiting to hear back from the University of Pennsylvania. They told the senator’s office that they need to discuss this matter with financial services department and would get back…
  • Weird News: November 2, 2021 someone called saying they were representing Temple University. They said they sent a letter to an 10 year old address which is strange, because my payment arrangement form has my current address. I need to confirm the balance since my last payment in February. I will use the GoFundMe funds to pay the balance.

I’ve been playing the graduation game for 25 years, but I’ve never been the “woe is me” type. I’m a fighter and a survivor. I joke that I’m a walking country song and use humor to cope and survive, but this issue is no laughing matter. Colleges are preying and profiting off adult learner’s desperation, confusion and lack of oversight and accountability. I’ve been resilient and resourceful while:

  • Surviving and healing from a brutal attack my first year at Penn
  • Helping my mother battle breast cancer and a botched, traumatic surgery
  • Losing my beloved Grandmother during my pregnancy and my mother a year later
  • Hiding an abusive relationship and fleeing domestic violence
  • Becoming a single mother of a sick child who spent their first 2 weeks in the hospital, later diagnosed with RSV, acid reflux, and temp. hearing loss
  • Battling uncontrolled diabetes and depression
  • Being a caregiver of my terminally ill Grandfather who I lost in 2018

You never know what someone is going through. I mostly suffered in silence, hiding my shame behind jokes and a “can do” spirit. I’m the strong one. I’m the person that everyone calls when they need something, but I had to swallow my pride and realize that I can’t do this alone. My beloved Grandmother use to say, “a closed mouth don’t get fed” and I’ve learned that a closed hand can’t receive. I’m sharing my story as a plea for help — not just for me, but the others like me…

We all have a family member or friend who “just can’t seem to finish”… but you only know part of the story. It’s easy to make suggestions and say, “I did it, why can’t you?”, but you don’t know how many times the rules changed for them or they were told by a financial aid officer, “just register and we’ll figure it out”. Then, they’re left with a bill, put on financial hold — again, stuck now and the cycle continues.

This issue is humiliating, complicated and we should never judge or compare. A lot of changes need to be made to better support nontraditional students in higher education. In the meantime, I’m trying to change my life and help others along the way.

I started the Finish Line/Fresh Start College Fund to help people like me to finally cross the finish line and get their degree. A bachelor’s degree would help us get a fresh start in life and our careers. I know that having a degree isn’t a magic pill to make everything better, but it’s the biggest weapon in fighting poverty. Having a degree opens doors and opportunities that are simply not available or possible without one.

In the midst of all the injustices, the biggest are disparities in education that have a domino effect on a person’s life. Poor, Black and brown people often don’t go to high schools that academically prepare them for college or to compete with suburban or private school candidates. There are increased efforts to educate parents and students about financial aid, but it’s not enough. We need a comprehensive approach to address all these issues including accountability for schools that recruit poor, Black and brown traditional and nontraditional students to “get numbers” and tuition money, but don’t provide essential academic, financial, housing, mental health and other supports to ensure their success.

On my GoFundMe I listed some changes that need to be made, but I’ll repeat: if you’re active with your alumni associations, or a faculty member ask about your adult learning/continuing education programs and gap funding to help millions of hardworking people cross the finish line.

At the end of the day, I know I’m blessed to have gone to college, have a career and the ability to tell my story. I have faith and I’m a hard worker. God has never forsaken me and has always sent me angels in my hour of need. I know things will work out in the end. I started college the summer I graduated from high school and I’ve literally been fighting to finish ever since. Life and the attack got me off track, but I’m staying the course…

I’ve been playing the graduation game for 25 years. Next year, I plan to win!

Part 3 — will be my graduation story and a work in progress… to be continued

Thank you for reading.

Writer, Founder WEOC and Editor of Writers and Editors of Color Mag Bylines in Zora, Momentum, An Injustice!, POM, Illumination, The Pink, and Better Marketing

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