Students walking on campus

April is National Community College month, a celebration of all the benefits community colleges offer our students. But it also has me thinking about my own community college journey.

I reflect back on my time as a student at Rose State College, the community college in my hometown of Midwest City, Oklahoma. I love the fact that I was a learner there.

Discovering a Passion

I took classes at the community college during the summers because it was more affordable than the courses at my university. There was something welcoming in coming back to my home community. As a first-generation college student, Rose State felt safe and comfortable. The environment felt more approachable.

I took my first sociology class there—and ended up eventually minoring in sociology. I found a passion for the study of the structure and functioning of human society. To this day, I remember the lesson on the “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.”

Caring Professors, Small Classes

I went back to Rose State after I had earned my bachelor’s degree because I was preparing for admission to a master’s degree program in business administration (MBA). That time I took calculus and statistics—both prerequisites for that MBA program.

While I always liked math, I was somewhat intimidated by these courses. I had heard horror stories of how difficult they were. However, my caring professors and committed classmates lessened those feelings.

Coming from a liberal arts background, I needed the small, supportive classroom environment that my community college provided me. I loved it there. I felt welcomed, and I experienced success.

Paying It Forward

Fast forward a few years to after I had decided that an MBA was definitely not the route for me. Instead I earned my master of education degree in secondary education—with an emphasis in English that included the magical 18 credits in graduate level English, which made me eligible to teach at the college level.

This time I returned to Rose State College to teach English composition. Over the course of seven years, I had gone from a student at my local community college (for two very different reasons) to being an educator. Just reflecting on that makes me smile and feel so appreciative.

Students Committed to Learning

I taught during the day at the local junior high and in the evenings at Rose State. I loved teaching my evening classes filled with veterans from the local Tinker Air Force Base.

I was energized by their desire to learn and to achieve their goals. I was energized by the fact that they each came to Rose State, and by extension my classroom, because they wanted to be there.

Every time I gave my students the opportunity to revise and resubmit an assignment, they did it—over and over again. They wanted to learn! I can’t think of anything more invigorating for an educator.

Work That Matters

That decision to pick up some extra credits over the summer literally changed the trajectory of my life. I simply fell in love.

I fell in love with the mission of community colleges, with service to the community, with the power of the students, and with my ability to do work that matters. And that’s what has me coming back to Front Range Community College each and every day.

Is Community College Right for You?

Want to learn about what it’s like to be a student at a community college? Read FRCC alumna Melanie Wilkerson’s story about why it was the right choice for her.

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