I began my college journey at UVCC in 1992. I was barely eighteen, and I had scrimped and saved money for my tuition working full-time at Stevenett’s Malt Shoppe while also paying my own living expenses. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life back then, but as I rode the UTA bus back and forth from Provo, I would stare out the window and think about how someday I would graduate from college. If I would have known then how long it would take me to achieve my Everest-sized goal, I probably would have thrown in the towel, but over the last twenty-seven years, my aching for a college degree would only grow. I think the real story of my decades-long commitment is in my why. Why is graduating college so important to me?
A college degree is so important to me for many reasons. One, I am not a quitter. I always have and always will finish whatever it is that I start with an iron-stubborn will. Even if it takes me a third of a lifetime. Two, I have a sick passion, almost an obsession with reading and writing, and I am driven by the inescapable strings attached to my fingertips that attach my brain and heart to books and dictionaries, papers and pens, and computer keyboards with word processing windows open in monitors. My strings are more like fetters, and they won’t let me be. They sing to me, whisper, and often shout that my calling in life is to preach the power of the word. Three, I am a proud life-long learner. During the last thirty years, I have been a professional blogger paid to review books, a PTA board member, a Title I school community literacy coordinator, and an ESL adult education instructor. I never stop learning and growing and increasing my capacity to know and teach. It’s what I love to do. I currently work at UVU as a part-time administrator which has allowed me to continue to provide for myself and my family while also privileging me with an unofficial study of art on a daily basis.
A college-degree is important to me for the greater future it will provide for my family. Over the last twenty-seven years, I have been a wife of a double-achieving grad student and a mother of five. (My husband earned his undergrad at UVSC in 2002 and his JDMBA from the University of TN in 2008.) I earned my own associate degree from UVSC in 2002. I was cume laude, working part-time at Kinko’s every night to save money for my husband’s law-school applications, and soon-to-be pregnant with my third child. Never, not ever, not even for one second, did I give up on my goal of becoming a college graduate. For many years, the goal was on the back burner because of resource scarcity and the time it took me to support my husband and nurture my children, but it was always boiling over in impatience. I came back to UVU in 2015, and I am now proudly (and proud is a gross understatement) three semesters away from a goal I wrote for myself over three decades ago. The moment I walk into my first classroom as a certified English teacher with a college degree, I will be passing out sunglasses to all of my students because I am sure that I will glow as bright as the sun. I am a living breathing example of what I hope all of my students will become: a college graduate, a lifelong learner, and a committed goal setter. And my paycheck? That will hopefully pay for my children to attend college. My husband and children are my fourth why, but really my first.
There is one last why. Actually, two. Their names are Richard and Sharon Wills. My beloved parents. They never graduated from college even though they both valued learning deeply. Like me, they were always busy providing a living for their seven kids. They were both farm kids. My dad’s family raised dairy cows; mom’s raised chickens. They got married right out of high-school and both went to a community college on scholarships. Mom’s was in band; dad’s, in football. However, my dad would be drafted into the Marine Corps for Vietnam, and my mom would follow him wherever he went. When it came to college, they never finished what they started. My dad passed away two years ago from the Agent Orange he contracted there. As I stared at his casket draped with the American flag, I heard him tell me, “Keep going, Alice. I know what you are doing is not easy. You have 5 kids, a husband with crippling anxiety, a part-time job, and you are in college. I am so proud of you. Don’t give up. Please finish what your mom and I started.” When I walk across the UVU platform and receive my diploma, the tears down my cheeks will be the ones that my mom and dad granted me by giving me life, instilling in me my work-ethic, inspiring in me my love for learning, and most of all because of my farming heritage that will not ever allow me to give up on a worthy goal.