CJ speaking at the graduation podium

Perseverance Pays Off for Creative Writing Student

As we celebrate our graduates this spring, we hear many powerful stories about their experienceboth in college and in life. More often than not, they’re stories of overcoming significant obstacles to reach their dreams.

We get to hear from some of these students during our graduation ceremonies. We call them our “Voices.” Over the next week or so, we’ll be sharing several of their speeches with you here.

We hope you learn something worthwhile from each our our graduate’s voices.

CJ Echols: Associate of Arts

Thirteen years feels like a blip on the radar to some, but to me it feels like a lifetime.

Many people have asked, “What was the hold up? What took you so long to get here?”

Addiction, recovery, abuse, and lack of autonomy, to name a few.

My name is CJ Echols, and welcome to today’s graduation ceremony. My journey to this moment was filled with doubt and ambiguity; however, one thing I know for sure: man, am I glad to have a bright future.

A Catalyst

My passion for writing has always been there, but my wise mind took over as I traversed several educational paths. The catalyst for my dream career in writing and editing occurred in the fall of 2018.

On my way from one end of the campus to the other, I came across one of the English Department faculty tabling in the Student Commons. As a life-long reader, I checked out the handouts and other major-related materials, but what grabbed my attention was the accompanying basket of books.

When I exclaimed that I loved David Foster Wallace’s work, this professor asked me if I was taking any creative writing classes. I said no, I’m in a different program, and I can’t make that happen. The professor let it go, and I went to class.

Finding the Right Path

Little did I know that this professor would ask if I would take his class every semester until I caved.

I graduated from FRCC in 2019 and returned that fall to pursue a career path that excited me. When he asked again, it would be the last time I said no. In the spring of 2020, I took his Creative Writing II class and have never looked back.

Advice for Fellow Grads

If I could offer you three pieces of advice, they would include:

  1. “You are not your current circumstance.”
  2. “Setbacks, no matter how bad they seem, are setups for something beautiful.”
  3. “It’s okay not to know what you want to do.”     

I don’t know what the next 13 years will bring; however, I can tell you with certainty that I am excited to see how it all unfolds. Congratulations, Class of 2023!

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