End The Stigma Surrounding Community College

I began attending community college in Fall of 2015 at the age of 17. I didn’t have the grades to even apply to a four-year institution due to mental health issues I dealt with at the beginning of my high school journey. My grades were good the last year, but it was a bit too late to get all that was required of me finished in time, those 2 years are what truly held me back. On top of that I was extremely confused as to what exactly it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was 16 for a majority of my senior year, only turning 17 a month before I graduated, how is a girl that young supposed to know what she wants to do? So, I decided to enroll in my local community college and see if what I wanted from life was higher education, I had no idea what major I was interested in so I signed up for classes that interested me.

When I first started I looked at community college the same way that society seems to perceive it: SHAME. Society sees community college as a place where people who have no future go. The community college system is looked at as the lowest of the low and it’s degrading to go there. That’s what society says.; “you’re not a real college student, you go to community college, don’t complain about how difficult it is”. Community college has college level classes, of course it is difficult. I am aware that universities are tougher, but that does not allow anyone to overlook the effort and time that community college students put into their work in order to pass their classes.

It does not matter where you begin your path to higher education, all that matters is that it leads you to where you want to end up.

For a long time I was ashamed of attending a community college. I watched a lot of my friends go off to universities all over the state and it felt humiliating to be where I was. That was until I realized how community college was actually the best possible thing that could have happened to me. As I mentioned before, I was lost and had no clue what I wanted from life. Being at a community college helped me find that by allowing me to take different classes so that I could explore all my interests. The fact that community college is so much more affordable than a university helped since I could take these classes without the sense of impending doom that comes with debt hovering over me. I was also able to take classes while still having a part time job. The truth is that I was not ready to leave to a university, staying local and going to a community college allowed me to get myself together before embarking on a solo endeavor.

I was not prepared mentally, emotionally, financially, or academically. 2 years later I feel sure of my major, can afford to leave, and am more mature mentally. 2 years later and I have 0 debt, the only thing I’ve ever paid for has been my textbooks and transportation. My classes and tuition have been covered by the BOG Waiver and the Pell Grant, given to low income qualifying students. It’s safe to say that not being stressed out about owning money has allowed me to pay attention and focus completely on my education. I’m glad and most of all PROUD to be a community college student. I have met amazing people that have helped me get the most out of the community college system and am currently set to apply to transfer to a 4 year university of California this fall. I could not be more satisfied with my decision, and you should be too.

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Valerie Fernandez
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An 18 year old political science major from Los Angeles, California. I enjoy reading, music, writing, animals, and social activism. Proud latina.

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