Well society, I did it: I am formally educated. I made it into the 6 percent of this world that holds a college degree. And after 16 years of academic blood, sweat and tears I am pretty proud to say that I made it.
It would be hard to put my academic life into words, so I won’t go into any long speech about the hard work or lessons learned or the trials and errors of finding a passion. But I do want to say one thing that I think encompasses the entire reason I made it this far:
Thanks to my kindergarten through 3rd grade teacher that taught me to read, do long division and cast me as Peter Pan in the 3rd grade play. These all set me up for a pretty successful elementary school career. And thanks to the teachers in middle school who helped me survive the awkwardly horrible ages of 12, 13 and 14, even if I am not quite sure exactly what I learned in 7th and 8th grade that prepped me for the rest of my life, aside from… well… I guess I’ll get back to you on that lesson. Thank you to all my teachers in high school from the pre-calculus teacher that was willing to help even the most stubborn of non-math-oriented minds squeeze by with a B-, to the quirky art teacher who made us all reflect by painting giant self portraits that peered around every corner of the school, to the phenomenal English department that introduced me to literature and cultural references that I still use on a daily basis and pulled out a writing voice that ended up landing me the college degree I have today. And an infinite amount of thanks to all the educators I had at Loyola, both in the classroom and out. Professors that made me cover current events in Chicago, and challenged me to revolutionize the way I look at society, economics, race and culture. Professional mentors that pushed me to understand and value social justice, service and reporting with thought and context. Friends that laughed, cried and celebrated at our local college bar every step of the way. A reverent thank you to my father for teaching me to understand life, humanity and the importance of making every day count both in personal and professional life, even after his death. And an ongoing thank you for my mother, brother and extended family that offered support beyond measure throughout all the ups and downs that accompanied the last four years. A thanks to whatever random chance landed me in a socioeconomic status that allowed me to have this support system, to afford the opportunities that I had and to keep me afloat as I figure out the next step, all in a time where that the price of the privilege of quality education is skyrocketing.
My diploma shows the result of my meritocracy: Bachelor of Arts, Magna cum Laude, journalism, Alpha Sigma Nu. But what it doesn’t show is the vast network that enabled me to achieve this honor. This isn’t to downplay my own work, I know that the only person that truly made this happen was me. But I also want to be sure I acknowledge the incredible support that was there along the way, and the unending gratitude I feel toward everyone who has been there the past 16 years.
Now it’s time to be a woman for others and, as the great St. Ignatius of Loyola would say, set the world on fire.