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Column: A graduate's perspective

Hannah Swayze • May 5, 2018 at 12:30 AM

Disclaimer: I do not think that college is the only correct path for everyone. There are plenty of ways to be successful in life without a college degree.

This weekend, I reach a milestone in my short adult life that if I'm completely honest, I didn't think would ever come: college graduation.

Not that anyone has ever told me that it wouldn't happen, of course.

I am incredibly lucky to have been born into such a place of privilege that instead of being asked "if," it’s “when” I was going to college. Which schools have I applied to? Which university did I pick? How many years do I have left? What will my degree be in?

Not only that, but I have an excellent position with a company in my field that I didn't even have to wait until graduation to begin working for.

I am and always have been free to do whatever I wanted whenever with no worries other than how long it would take me to pay off what little student debt I have accumulated.

Having picked up my cap and gown, taken my senior pictures and replied to relatives' RSVPs, I can't help but wish that everyone had the same opportunities I have had.

Some students did not have their parents’ support. From day one, they were on their own to figure out college and working multiple jobs while their friends and families looked on, wondering what they were doing and why they even bothered.

Others' families immigrated here illegally as children, and because of their immigration status, aren't allowed to attend college in some states, much less be eligible for much-needed financial aid.

And for some, life just got in the way.

But now that I'm here, now that we're all here, I believe it's our duty to take that privilege and help those who started behind us and without the advantages that we had.

We live in a time where college is more expensive than ever. In Tennessee, the graduation rate of students pursuing any kind of higher education is 51 percent, according the U.S. Department of education. To not appreciate where we find ourselves now would be foolish.

Every night this week, I've thanked my lucky stars that I was able to complete my degree still sane, with the support of my family. Today, I will walk across the stage, having the knowledge imparted on me by the wonderful faculty and staff at East Tennessee State University.

So, congratulations East Tennessee State University, class of 2018. May we use our knowledge to make this world better than we found it and after we reach our new heights, after taking a well-earned moment, turn around to help the next one in line.

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