In case you haven't figured it out yet, I believe very strongly in what community college students can accomplish.
In short, I believe in you.
And, if we can get real with each other for a second, I really want to ask something of you. Something serious. Something important.
Let me explain:
I'm currently teaching a College Success course at the community college from which I graduated, and I just found out about someone who also graduated with an A.A. from that same college.
Her name? Paula Pell, long-timer writer for SNL (she wrote one of my favorite characters, Debbie Downer!). She recently wrote a movie starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler ("The Nest," coming out December 2015.)
I often share in my speeches that moment when I won the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship that would allow me to get a master's degree - that moment where I got weak in the knees and wept because of this thought: "People like me don't get master's degrees; that's for other people. Rich people. Smart people. Not for people like me...but now...I guess that's not true."
"People like me." Three simple words that we know make no logical sense. We know, intellectually, that almost anything any person can do we can do too; they don't need to look like us or come from where we come from or have anything externally in common with us.
But, we tend to internalize things behind the logical part of our brain. And we tend to set limits on ourselves based on what we think "people like us" are allowed to achieve.
My biggest aim in writing this blog and doing everything I do in regards to community colleges has always been about one simple thing:
Making sure YOU never feel less than you are. Making sure YOU never think "people like me" CAN'T do [insert your dream here.]
When I read about Paula Pell (the alum from my community college) and thought about all she'd accomplished, that non-logical but oh-so-powerful part of my brain kicked in: "hey, if she can...maybe you can too!" Sound familiar?
To me, there is nothing more inspiring and empowering then hearing a community college success story. There is nothing more exciting than being reminded that success is about SO MUCH MORE then where you go to college. Community college is a great start and it is a place that feeds success if you're willing to do the work.
So now I want to do three very important things, including asking you something very important:
1. Thank you, Paula Pell
Thank you for being excellent at what you do. Your very excellence inspires me, and I hope can now inspire all the community college students who read this.
2. The Ask
You don't have to work in a community college (though that'd be awesome if that's what you want to do!) to make a difference for community college students. The very BEST thing you can do to give back to your community college is to BE EXCELLENT.
That is what I want to ask of you. If this blog helps you in any way, if community college helps you in any way, please give back by being excellent.
Don't settle for less than your very best. Prove everyone wrong. Reach higher than people expect "people like you" to reach.
Keep going when it seems impossibly hard and hardly possible.
Find a job you'd like to do and be really, really, really good. Be the BEST, in fact.
And then, please don't be afraid to tell others that you went to community college. Showcase it on your LinkedIn profile. Blaze it on your resume. Share it with the world.
Proclaim boldly: "YES I went to community college and I am excellent! And NO that is NOT an oxymoron, you're an oxymoron if you think that, because...!!" haha....just kidding...[stepping off soapbox now]
3. Celebrate Alumni at your college
Whether you're a student or a community college staff member reading this, please do something to tell students at your college about the AWESOME people who have graduated from your college and gone on to do great things.
When we learn about students who've come from where we've come from, walked the same halls, started at the same place, who have gone on to do amazing things, it just makes us stand a little taller. It makes us believe a little more that maybe that extra hour spent studying might actually pay off one day.
That maybe community college could be the start of something big in our lives.
That maybe, just maybe, excellence is possible - the kind of excellence that scares us. The kind we think is for "other people." I'm here to tell you, it's not for other people. It's for you if you want it. Go get it.
And for the good yourself and community college students everywhere: be excellent.