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November 17, 2013 / Ang

My New Goals

I wanted to write about this tonight before I get too tired to actually share anything of importance.

Yesterday, I went to the university that I attended for four years and hope to get back to in order to finish out my undergraduate studies and have my honors college diploma. I went there because I tutor in a program called Upward Bound Math and Science. It encourages high school students who are prospective first generation college students to maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA, good attendance, and pursue a college degree. Actually, it’s a requirement of the program for the students to apply to several colleges or universities and even more scholarships. The program doesn’t just ask them to do this, but provides the support system the students need in order to reach these goals. The program that I volunteer with serves students within the county that I live in, and encourages them to pursue “STEM fields,” also known as degrees in math or science fields.

Even when I was having the worst of my days, I continued to go to these Saturday Academies. I’ve only missed one Saturday Academy since starting my time with the program (initially as a tutor for the summer program and then continuing to attend the Saturday tutoring sessions once a month throughout the academic year because I couldn’t do the summer program this year). The Saturday that I missed was because a friend of mine from high school, one of the only people from my high school I’ve kept in touch with, was in town. I don’t get to see him in person very often because he was going to school at Denison for his undergraduate studies, and now he’s attending Michigan State University as a graduate student. I love reading his facebook statuses because he’s delightfully sarcastic about how his chem students act. When he was in town and we already had plans set up before I realized it was the Saturday Academy I convinced myself that it would be okay to take a day off and spend time with my friend rather than tutor because it’s not an opportunity that I have very often. And the people who work with the program agreed. I think they were even proud of me for doing something for myself, actually.

I volunteer with this program for a few reasons. I LOVE the kids. I’m so proud of these students, I know that they’re going to do something great someday. I keep an eye out for them and let them know that they have someone looking out for them and willing to help them with whatever they need. I’m completely serious when I say that too – it would make my day for one of the students to take advantage of the fact that I gave them my e-mail address and told them that they can e-mail me papers whenever they need help or someone to edit them. I want to be a support system for these students so that they know there is always someone in their corner. I keep an eye on their extracurricular activities too. When some of my students were performing in a marching band showcase at the county fair I went for the sole purpose of watching them and cheering them on. Currently, some of my students are preparing to play for the district championship in football. I was SO proud of them as I listened to the game last night and heard my students’ names being called out for the great plays they were making when they won 28-7 against a school that recruits.

All of this is to explain why exactly I was in a college classroom full of high school students listening to a new sociology professor at the university sharing the story of his life with us.

There is a professor who is new to the university who can serve as an inspiration to just about anyone. He grew up as a migrant farmer worker and went through a LOT. His senior year of high school he was called down to the principal’s office and told that he didn’t have the necessary credits to graduate with his class (or the class after his or the class after that for that matter). When he asked for his options his principal encouraged him to pursue his GED and that really brought him down. He didn’t feel like he was “enough” because he had to get a GED rather than a normal high school diploma. His principal then spoke words of wisdom, “It’s not the degree you get that matters – it’s what you do with it.” So he got his GED and tried to join the service – where he was informed that because he didn’t have a high school diploma he would need fifteen credit hours from a college in order to enlist. When he was done with the service, honorary discharge, he thought, “I wonder if I have the noggin for a bachelor’s degree…” It took a lot of work, he was working while attending school, he helped his family out, and he had days where he was really hungry – but he did it. Not only did he finish out his bachelor’s in criminology but he ultimately got his master’s, and then a PhD from Texas A&M in sociology. Now he’s here in Pennsylvania, married, missing Texas barbecue, and helping his students to realize that they can do this too. The thing that gave me even more inspiration about his story is that he also has a learning disability – he’s dyslexic, but he was able to earn a PhD. Tell me he’s not impressive and I’ll tell you that you’re a liar.

While listening to him talk about sociology it reminded me of how much I loved sociology and helped me to realize that my “inner nerd” is very much a sociologist. I always wonder about the why of things, find explanations, and want to learn MORE. Even in all of my education classes a large part of me was secretly questioning things from a sociological perspective. I forget what I asked him but one of the women who works with the program jokingly went, “Why? Are you considering sociology now too?” My immediate reaction was, “Yes, actually. I’m sitting here trying to figure out how I could apply sociological concepts to the field of education.” And he informed me that there’s actually a field called “Sociology of Education,” and that while we don’t have the program at my university such programs DO exist. Now I’m determined to finish out my undergraduate degree, preferably still in the field of education. I looked at the math program last night and I’m terrified of it but if I can get my math levels back to where they need to be to take on a calc class I’ll join it in a heartbeat. If all else fails, I can just pursue middle level math I guess. Honestly, I would really prefer high school math which means that I need to relearn this information and learn it inside and out so that I can explain it to other people. And once I’m through my undergraduate, potentially working with the McNair Program if I can qualify and be accepted, I’m going to graduate school. I’m serious. I’m going to start brushing up for the GRE in my time off from school I think. I think that studying for the GRE might actually help me to prepare for the math classes I would need in order to get my math education certification. I hope it will anyway, and that it helps me to support my students in their math endeavors as well. Oh, and, there’s a part of me that’s tempted to take some of the classes offered for a B.S. in Disabilities Services because I think they could be useful. I think a possible research topic of interest for me in the future would be regarding physical disabilities in educational settings. But that’s just a far fetched idea for now. I just want to know more about the rights of individuals with disabilities for now.

Aside from studying for the GRE I’m hoping that I can find a part-time job. In banking, preferably. I think I could be a good banker and that it could be fulfilling for the time being. I just can’t picture it being the rest of my life so it’s my current back-up plan, and my plan for income while at school if I can survive working while going to classes, and a great stepping stone. Now I just need someone to hire me.

I’m really hoping that this new found ambition can help me to maintain the motivation I need to reach these goals. I have a good reason to be healthy again and my  doctors need to help me get there. Life is good… Or it will be.

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