Joseph at the graduation podium

Student Turns His Passion Into His Career Path

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.” This spring, we’re sharing several of their speeches with you here.

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

Joseph Brucker: Associate of Arts With English Designation

Joseph at the graduation podium

I never thought I would be standing here.

In a cap and gown, staring at your beautiful faces.

I never thought I was smart enough to attend college.

My parents did not believe education was beneficial and implanted that belief in me.

Surviving, Not Thriving

As a teenager, my attention was not on receiving good grades. Or worrying about projects. Or reading the copy of Wuthering Heights assigned in my high school English class.

When there is no food in the house, the last thing a teenager thinks about is homework. I was surviving, not thriving.

I barely made it through high school. And I do mean barely.

Giving College a Try

In 1991 and 2001, I attempted to attend community college in Orlando but quickly dropped out. I tried, but my old brain continued tapping me on the shoulder, whispering, “You do not belong in college. You are not smart enough to be here.”

Like many others who hear those whispers, I believed them.

Now… fast forward to 2020. The pandemic brought me to a crossroads, where I decided to retire early from the airline industry and start a new chapter in my life.

I had no clue what my next chapter looked like. I asked my husband, Matt, “What should I do now?” He replied, “Stay open to any new possibilities, and remember, it will work out.”

Finding Belonging at FRCC

My husband Matt is my biggest supporter, and if it were not for him, I would not have had the courage to enroll at Front Range and give college a third try.

Sometimes it takes another person to remind you that the only thing holding you back—is yourself.

Joseph at the graduation podium

After a few weeks on campus during my first semester—well, on Zoom classes—I realized I had found where I was always supposed to start my education path. At Front Range, I instantly belonged.

Life can often feel like we are working on completing an endless puzzle, and at Front Range, I found my missing educational puzzle piece. I knew I wanted to major in English, but I did not know what I would do with that degree.

Deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life can be overwhelming.

Sharing a Passion

But one day, it clicked; my journey would involve instilling my love and passion for reading and writing in others. The English faculty gave me quite an education, and not only regarding the curriculum assigned.

I observed how these incredible professors successfully managed a classroom while interacting with students in a positive environment. Front Range gave me two educations; one as a student and one as a future educator.

Numerous professors have made an impact on me at Front Range. I cannot name them all, but there are a few that I must address while I have this opportunity. I may not have felt like I belonged here without them.

Major Influences

Professors like April Lewandowski who encouraged me to believe in myself when I suffered from Imposter Syndrome. We bonded over our love for David Sedaris. And she taught me about the hanging indent.

Professor John Kinsey. Probably, the coolest human being I have ever met. I’m old; I have met many people. He helped open my mind to the importance of philosophical theory and critical thinking. And he allowed me to tap into my comedic writing style in my assigned papers. I never thought it possible to make Nietzsche funny, but never say never.

Professor Angela Green Garcia changed how I looked at the Earth. Now I am obsessed with rocks. Trust me; rocks are not as boring as one might think.

Joseph at the graduation podium

Professor Tino Gomez. He modeled the type of professor I want to become in the future. Passionate. Creative. Open.

One day in our Creative Writing workshop, Professor Gomez separated the class into two groups; each in a different classroom. After he visited the other group, he walked over to my table and said, “I won’t say who is saying this, but the students in the other classroom are referring to you as, quote, ‘the kind dad.’ If you are the kind dad, what does that make me?”

The Kind Mom?

And to the countless others who have gone along with me on this amazing journey, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Believe in Yourself

Whether you are 20 years old or 50 years old, believe that you can achieve your goals. My goal was to graduate from college, and Front Range made that possible. Give yourself grace when you stumble, then pick yourself right back up. You have work to do. Nobody will do it for you.

Taylor Swift has a song called “Invisible Strings.” The idea of being pulled towards something we might not know exists. We are blind to it, but it is right there waiting for us. We just have to be open to accepting the challenge.

Again, thank you to my husband, Matt, for encouraging me to accept the challenge. It changed my life.

Congratulations, Class of 2023. From one of your fellow graduates, Joseph Brucker.

Thank you.

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