At the May 2018 Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College graduation, four student speakers shared their story of having completed their high school degree and gotten college credits at the same time at MWCC. These speeches were given by the valedictorians from each program as well as a student from each program who was picked through an application process. We have gathered their full speeches together in a series we are calling Choosing MWCC Dual-Enrollment.
Gateway to College Valedictorian Morgan Blavackas graduated with her high school diploma and an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her cumulative GPA is a 3.78. Morgan plans to explore further opportunities for advancement in her workplace and to pursue the 3 + 1 transfer program in Business Management, a partnership between Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg State University.
Each one of us has a different story to tell. We all followed very different paths to get here and tonight we share the same chapter celebrating this huge accomplishment. The rest of the book may have some chapters that reflect feelings of sadness towards the potential we didn’t see in ourselves yet. The potential that can be so easily lost to circumstances.
My story before Gateway was so deeply suppressed, I had to find my application essays to reflect on who I was in the beginning. I suggest to the whole class to look at your application essays if you can to see how far you have come and how proud you should be. My essay described a lot of physical and emotional pain that who I was couldn’t handle. I was 14, starting freshman year with the usual drama but the same friends at my side, but nobody could have told me how my path would become overgrown and so clouded. My parents were divorcing, I had so much anxiety I became afraid to even leave my house. I would get sick from the anxiety of leaving the house and on top of that the anxiety of knowing I was going to get sick and then get stress headaches. I was a mess.
Throughout, I was in and out of school & court for my absences. My DCF worker and my previous vice principal would bully me for wasting my potential and my possibilities. I knew they were right. There was no way that I could ever complete my education or be anything in the state that I was in. I tried to keep up with my homework; going to tutoring; I even attended summer school, dealing with the whispers as to why I was really not at school every day. It wasn’t enough. I have never failed at anything in my life. I was mortified. I wasn’t going to graduate with my friends. It wore me down. I couldn’t deal with all the negativity; it brought me to a place where in the very back of my mind I could hear that voice telling me to reach for the stars because I’m good enough, but the negative ones were louder. At 16 I left school.
Through everything, my friends and family stuck with me and understood what I was going through and would push me when they could or give me space and time, a hand to help me up when I needed it or a shoulder to cry on. They tried so hard because they could see my potential and I brushed it off or pushed them away. I was experiencing so much – not just pain or anger, but embarrassment. Too many different emotions that I didn’t want to feel or confront; all I did was sleep, and when I was awake all I wanted was to sleep.
I had a few previous members tell me about Gateway as they were in similar situations. being at the information session made me truly feel in my gut that this was the path I should take, because even if I didn’t know whether or not the college path was going to take me anywhere specifically, I must seize this moment as life can get in your way as you get older. Realistically, I could not flourish in a traditional school environment and the Gateway program has been able to bring out the best in me academically. But I want to thank the friends and family out there – not just mine but everyone that know who we were when we couldn’t see our potential. You are here to tell us “told you so.”
I have always loved learning, I just have that natural want to learn. It is silly but the final push for me was Drivers ed. I needed to stop disappointing my family. Seeing my friends as seniors talking about graduating and their caps and gowns made me have a revelation. Being there just gave me that rush and I wanted that. I want to take notes and say the right answer because no one else is truly paying attention, I want to have a cap and gown, I want my friends and family to take pride in me knowing that after everything I went through, I still persevered and conquered my goals with all their help.
It was every ignored word that lurked in the back of my mind and I vowed to myself in my entrance essay: I will use my strengths to keep going, to keep growing, to keep learning. I think its kind of poetic that while in the midst of a Driver’s ed course I decided to take control of my life and where it was going.
I understand that my problems can no way be compared to anyone, because they were mine. Each of us are here now and we taken a hold of our own paths because no one else can fight for us, no one else can want to be here. That is one of the main characteristics of Gateway: owning that responsibility. Where you are in charge of your success, you are not forced to be here and not even asked to raise your hand to simply use the bathroom (which is awesome), and you have access to so many resources to help you succeed. I have gone to tutoring many times, gone to the SOS office when things got difficult between leaving my childhood home and going into a new home. The teachers were understanding and supportive.
I cannot thank The Gateway to College Program enough for being an alternative to those struggling in a traditional school setting.
I thought about this speech for months and never wrote anything down because I wasn’t quite ready to believe I could be Valedictorian, that I could be here in front of you all today. To everyone on this stage and all of the people in the Access & Transitions office, thank you for your continued excellence and guidance and no doubt belief in all of us. We were able to succeed because you were there to show us as we needed to fight for ourselves and our future.
I reached my short-term goal of a diploma and surprisingly also a degree. I dedicated my life not just to the program but to my untapped potential. It gave me a priceless calm; my soul knowing they gave me this opportunity and even if life can get in the way at some points, we still leave this college with a diploma and an even some a degree with new paths, new dreams, with a stronger hope for my future.
I know I can’t end this speech saying we have gone through a lot these past four years together when we have all been here for one semester or 2 years and are all different ages and I know I am not the best at socializing, but I do want to say to you;
Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams.
Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled
potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed
in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. -Pope John XXIII
You are worth everything the world offers you if you are willing to work for it!
Thank you, Gateway Class of 2018.