Hello. My name is Maria, and I am so grateful to have been asked to speak for you today. Only a few years ago, I was sitting in these same seats, completing the TTC program and getting ready to go to college. My journey to get to this point was not easy, as I’m sure many of you feel the same.
I am the youngest child of immigrant parents who moved here from Portugal. My parents never learned the English language, which put me at a disadvantage in school right from the start. Before I could even learn in school, I had to learn how to speak English. I did okay in grade school but in high school, I started to hang with the wrong crowd, and before I knew it, I was failing most of my classes. I became pregnant and dropped out of school. By the age of 19, I was a high school dropout and a mother of two children. Education was never important in my home, my parents never pushed me to do well in school or strive to go to college.
Fast forward 15 years, I found myself at the age of 32 with three children and working two minimum wage jobs just to survive. I thought to myself, there has to be a better way. Lucky for me, I met a man (who is now my fiance by the way) who grew up in a different world than me. He was taught the value of education by his parents and he was in the process of completing college himself. He pushed me to go to college; the only problem was I didn't have a high school diploma. I had dropped out of high school in 9th grade, and to be honest, I hadn’t done well in 8th or 7th grade either. Now that I think about it, I basically had a 6th grade education. However, my goal then was to do whatever it took to get to college. In my case, it meant getting a GED, which I did though RIRAL, and get ready for college. After months of study classes and prep courses, I passed the GED exam and was ready for college.
Knowing what I know now, if I had tried to go straight to college after my GED, I don't think I would have graduated this year. RIRAL’s Transition to College Program gave me the skills that were critical for my success. Not only did TTC help me get up to speed on things like math and English, it also taught me HOW to be a college student. You might wonder what that means. Being a successful college student takes patience, time management, social skills, and determination. These are the skills that put me on the track to an Associates Degree. The instructors at TTC always told me to get to class early, sit in the front, introduce myself to the professor, always put homework first (Netflix can wait), manage my time, and never procrastinate because you never know when life will throw you a curveball.
When I started at CCRI, I was nervous, but I started off slowly, taking only two courses the first semester. I knew it was going to be hard, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure by taking too many courses. In my second semester, I decided to take three courses because by then I knew what was expected of me, and I knew I could do it. I am not going to tell you it was easy, yet I will tell you it is doable. I had a few classes that gave me a run for my money, but I never gave up, and in the end, I am so proud of my accomplishments. All you have to do is show up, do the work, and ask questions, and believe me, the professors love that. Yes, it's harder when you have many responsibilities and that's when time management skills need to be applied. I am so lucky that TTC taught me all these skills.
As I look out at all of you, I see mothers, fathers, employees, and caretakers. We all have busy lives, so managing our time might be the most important skill to learn. There were times when I thought I would never be able to finish that paper or study for that exam. But, I made it a point to set aside time for schoolwork even if that meant my kids would make their own dinner that night. You may be sitting there right now thinking you have such a long way to go. Let me tell you that time flies, and before you know it, you will be done with your first semester!
If I could leave you with any advice before I end, it is to take the lessons learned from TTC and apply them. I am confident that if I could do it, then you can, too. I was a high school dropout with a 6th grade education. Now I am a woman with a college degree and a career ahead of me. Anything is possible. Thank You.