As I type this I am staring at my newly earned Associate in Arts degree and certificate in creative writing from the Community College of Philadelphia. I am realizing that no matter how tedious, all the work was worth it. All the nights staying up to write papers, reading handout after handout, and studying for countless hours prepared me for where I am now.
I must admit, however, that during my first semester at CCP, my mind was filled with doubt. Would I be able to actually finish college? Was I truly prepared?
I suppose this is the feeling of all incoming freshman: whether they will be able to stick with college and succeed in it. Over the next several weeks, I plan to share personal stories of my time at CCP and current transition to Temple University.
During my first semester at CCP, I was already wary from my then-short-lived Temple experience, and I was constantly going over in my mind what I didn't know and what I should have known. During my first year at CCP, I found myself surrounded by people who seemed to be pondering the same questions. Some appeared to be just out of high school, like me, while others had been out of school for years and had decided that they wanted to better themselves.
In that first year I shared a math class with a grandmother of two. She had been out of school for many years and was trying to stay committed to being enrolled at CCP. She was very friendly and very enthusiastic about class. I thought of her as a shining example of what could be accomplished no matter how old you are. It would be worth it in the end, and her grandchildren would be proud.
I wish I had the chance to know this grandmother a little more during our time together in class. Perhaps her enthusiasm would have rubbed off on me. What became apparent to me was that most students at CCP stayed to themselves. Even me. I think that if I had socialized more with my peers, things would have gone more easily and I would have enjoyed my first semester a little more. My peers were smart, and it was refreshing to be around them and hear their different perspectives.
My professors at that time were perfect images of what I had pictured them to be, very knowledgeable. Not all were old and wrinkly like the stories go. Out of all my professors during my first semester, my favorite was my English professor, Paul Oliver Wright. He realized the areas that his students were lacking in, such as grammar, and was not afraid to point it out to us. Sometimes he'd make comments in front of the entire class, which could be slightly embarrassing.
In addition to that, he talked to us and made conversation. You would think that is what professors are supposed to do, but further along in my time at CCP, I learned that not all professors were as open as Professor Wright. Some were distant from their students, while others left students wondering how this person could actually be considered a professor.
One fond memory I have of Professor Wright is of one day when I was on my way to his class. He stopped me and asked what my opinion was about the reading he had handed out the previous day. I can't recall what I had said in response, but I was taken by surprise nonetheless -- he wanted to know my opinion. Professors were interesting and could be friendly once you got to know them.
Despite having two jobs at the time, the workload was not that bad until later semesters. It was hard deciding at times whether I needed an extra hour at work or an extra hour of studying. I worked through it, though, and even when there were times when I wanted to be at work, I knew in the end that what I was doing would be worth it.
I often would overhear my friends discussing CCP, saying that it was nothing but the "13th grade." Some simply did not want to attend because they couldn't consider it a real college. Not true. I believed it to be a stepping stone to something greater, and it was. During my time at CCP, I became independent and prepared for what comes next.
A version of this piece appeared in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.