A New Day

This year has seemed so short in its passing and yet so much has been done and has happened. I have finished my second year here at Saint Xavier and it doesn’t seem real. I am going to be a junior in the fall. To be honest, it’s frightening to see that my school career here is already halfway over. It seems like only a short time ago I was still a high schooler anxious of my future in college. Now, I am a college student and I am anxious about what the future after college will be like. Much thought has gone through my head as this year became the pivotal moment in my and my family’s life. My father is retiring after twenty-odd years of hard manual work, and with that, a new change in our family dynamic. It is said that sophomore year is when a student “gets it.” What that is can be debated. Is it when a student finally realizes that their major was the wrong one? Or is it that they realize what they were called for, in the lack of a better word? I find it to be the latter. After volunteering at the Salem United Church of Christ’s PAPS or Homeless Shelter and with SXU’s Bread Truck and just interacting with people, I realized that I did indeed pick the right career in mind. I found that going out there and helping others was not just the wholesome thing a person should do but also a fun one. There is no point in a career or education if you’re not having fun. I want to enjoy what I’m doing in my livelihood. That is what I believe.

Finals are next week. I have my first one tomorrow. I’m not completely stressed out like a lot of my friends, but it does have me thinking. Once they are done with, what is there to do? What more can I do here until next semester? And what am I to do this summer? I am hopeful that I will get a job to help support my family. Since my brother is graduating college in the next two weeks, there is an excitement and an anxiety for him as well. Will he get a job following graduation? Will my parents be able to pay the payments of the Parent Plus Loan? All these spiral in my head as I crack a carefree joke to my friends. I don’t want to be a bother, and so I keep it away. This is my problem, why share it? Maybe that’s my mistake. But I can’t worry about that now, finals are here.

I feel that this year was a good one. I made new friends and cemented ones I know will last me a lifetime. My heart warms and pangs at the knowledge that many will graduate this year while I will be left behind. I live far away and visiting them is beyond the question. But I am confident this is not the end. I smile knowing that, but I frown for the future. I feel anxious looking to what the future entails, but I am hopeful that at least this step in my life is over and much more are to come as my aspirations to become a teacher draw ever nearer. Now I look out my window, the sun is setting. End comes this day but there comes the promise of tomorrow which is uncertain. Uncertain as it is, it is beautiful what this new day shall bring.

An Uncertain Future

This week has been a long and busy time. With lots of homework and surprise midterms, on my account, thrown into the mix, it’s been exhausting. About a week ago, I received word via email of the increasingly suspect status of the MAP grant due to the political gridlock in Springfield. This has been going on for the past few months – these emails. They were mostly the same when it came to updates on the MAP grant, the situation down in Springfield, what Saint Xavier’s been doing to help out and what we as students can do. It’s amusing sometimes how often the school reminds us of their efforts toward correcting this problem that they themselves have no total control over the bureaucrats down in Springfield. It shows that they are aware of their students’ concern. I appreciate it. I know the school is trying its best. If I thought otherwise, I’d be more inclined to a negative view. They’re doing all they can, I believe. If they didn’t, they’d be saying goodbye to a third of its students and much of its core value of diversity with low-income students, like myself, being forced to drop out due to a lack of funds. With a significant percentage of schools that students can’t afford to attend, it becomes a big problem. I don’t want to see that happen here. I care too much about this school and the community it has created to see it happen. Despite this notion, at least, Saint Xavier University is faring better than other schools in the state. Realizing this, I feel concerned for my friends that are going to other schools. I wonder how they’re dealing with this crisis.

I know they are doing all they can to keep this school up and running. But this email that was sent to us on the MAP grant and how we’ll have to look for alternative options was a setback for myself and I know for a lot of students in my situation. From what I’ve heard from other students in my position, we’ll have to come up with the money, around $4,750 for myself. For myself, I was able to find an acceptable alternative by taking out a loan which will be replaced with the MAP grant if it comes back. How am I going to pay that back in that time period? And why should I? Why am I and other students of low-income families being forced to pay for a grant affirmed to us by the state? I know the school’s reasoning for the push. They can’t run this school if there’s no revenue. They have done all they’ve can and more to continue to fight for us and work with us to find an amicable end to this situation. However, for the state, I have no such reservations. The state’s shooting itself in the foot by putting the burden of paying the shadow left behind by the grant upon the backs of the most financially vulnerable. If we qualified for the MAP grant due to our low-income status, how does it make sense for that student to pay what is unpayable?

I am not confident in the measures that are being taken by the state and find them misguided. I don’t blame the school. I blame the incompetence in the state legislature to affirm the basic rights of its citizens to education. I blame them for not setting aside their differences and realizing that by removing a huge percentage of its student population, low-income and poor, from acquiring the skills to work in-demand jobs, the state will suffer in the long term. For us students, we need to become more active in this process. The legislative process does not, or at least should not work in a vacuum. There was a rally of students a few weeks ago to lobby for the MAP grant, although it was ultimately unsuccessful in encouraging the state to pass the MAP grant, Saint Xavier and other schools showed their commitment to their promise of education. We need to do the same and advocate for ourselves, too. I really want to remain here at Saint Xavier. My friends are here, my dream of becoming a teacher is here. But with these circumstances, the future is uncertain. But I know Saint Xavier is there for us, and we need to be there for ourselves.