If not for my parents’ honesty about their education, I would not have graduated from high school or college. Their honesty gave me the courage to remain in school, even as mental health issues burst my world open. I knew that I could not quit, knew I had to double down. I had to make an effort to graduate from high school.
The room we were in, Room 24 at the Trails End Motel in Windsor, affectionately called “The Trailey” by my Ma even today, further influenced my need to attain my high school diploma and Associates in Arts in Liberal Arts from Mercer County Community College. I knew I did not want to be homeless, in a motel room year after year, with the prices going up. I knew that I wanted and needed a place of my own. I knew education— attending school— doing my best on my schoolwork—would be my key. I knew I never wanted to live in another motel room for the rest of my life, and definitely not with children in tow.
The transition period from high school to college was not without its struggle. Though smart, I was underprepared for the more intense coursework–the readings from several different courses, the papers to write, the Math homework that will not do itself. I ultimately stopped. I tried taking five and six courses at a time and burned out of all of them. I learned that just because my peers were taking five and six courses a semester doesn’t mean I should.
Asking for help was something that I found embarrassing. I had always been an independent type, and sometimes asking for help made me feel badly. I was supposed to grasp this information. I was supposed to be able to do this on my own, no assistance, no help.
I really do wish I had waited a couple of years after high school before applying to college. I would have been better off for it.
Ultimately, being the first to graduate makes me ecstatic. I did this. I pulled it off—name correctly spelled and (my full first, middle, and last names on my high school diploma, my first name, middle initial, and last name), pronounced correctly.
To other first-generation college students, to the parents who return to school years later, older, wiser, maybe even with children, I say congratulations and I wish you all the best and more. I say to read up on and learn your rights and responsibilities. I would say to find out more about college preparation programs. Lastly, I would say that if we do not feel comfortable about college straight after high school, then it is okay not to go to college. Maybe we’ll learn a little more about ourselves, gain more confidence. Consider going to trade school. The possibilities are endless.
Essence B. Scott is a longtime community contributor to The Streetlight who experienced homelessness in Mercer County as a child. A native of the capital region, Scott now resides in North Carolina.