As another semester comes to a close, my time left as a student at UNCW is ever so short. This being my last blog post for the IMC Hawks, I feel compelled to share my college journey in hopes to bring knowledge and faith that it is possible to obtain a college degree despite age, hardships or any obstacles that many people are facing this day and age.
As an 18-year-old college freshman, I was fortunate to land a job at a local film company where I began my career in film post-production. After obtaining my associates degree from Cape Fear Community College, I was accepted to UNCW soon after graduating. The schoolwork however was hindering my film career and I was forced to make the big decision to drop out of college. Fast forward years later and I am raising two children on my own and the film company I have been working so hard for my entire career is moving their operation to Atlanta, GA. This could be a whole other blog post about the film industry being swept away from our port city but I won’t get on that soapbox. Once again I am forced to make a big life decision. Do I stay in my hometown where I have a family to help, or pack up and try to navigate a big city alone with two kids? I decided to stay home. I felt lost with no direction again and now I have two other mouths to feed. I had to figure out a plan fast before I ended up in a homeless shelter with two small children.
I spent my days searching the Internet for full time jobs requiring my skills. I felt hopeless. Then all of a sudden there it was, the perfect fit, a job with all of my skill sets. I just knew this was it. I was excited about applying for the job and as I began reading the requirements, it says must have a bachelor’s degree. I was so angry but this was my turning point. I decided right then I was going back to college to finish and provide a better future for my children. I knew there was no one to pay for it and I knew it was going to be difficult, but I was determined to find a way.
At this point in my life, I was on government assistance, receiving food stamps, Medicaid for the children and living in income-based housing. I couldn’t afford daycare for my children, so I was only able to work part time when my family could help me. I went through the necessary steps to apply for re-enrollment to UNCW and soon received my letter of acceptance. I was finally making progress. After applying for and receiving financial aid and available grants, everything was in place to return to school with money for childcare, and enough grants and loans for tuition. My children and I could now live comfortably while I pursue my post secondary education.
With all that said, I stress the fact that it would not have been possible without the assistance programs available for struggling families or individuals. There are so many charities and resources available for education but for some individuals it is hard to find the right information. Many people get discouraged because it is just overwhelming trying to navigate the steps necessary to start college. We all know someone that struggles or wants to go back to school but feels it is impossible. I ask you to encourage them and arm them with the knowledge to guide them. You could very well change someone’s life just by giving him or her the nudge they need or showing them the right place to start the process of obtaining their college degree.
Here are a few helpful links for more information on low-income assistance and help paying for college