When I think about advice I can give to graduating seniors, the only phrase the comes to my mind is “be your own advocate”.
I was definitely a “high maintenance student” in high school and college--more so in college. I was the person who also had a crisis, was always in the counselor’s office and always needed encouragement. Surely, the mere mention of the name “Kristen Kilker” sends a chill down the back of many teachers and professors.
I wish I could have been an easier student, but then again, I did what I needed to do. All the help in the world will mean nothing if you aren’t willing to fight for yourself.
We put such an emphasis on being “agreeable” and not bothering people, even if that means you have ultimately let yourself down because you didn’t fight hard enough for yourself.
You deserve to be here. Be your own advocate.
Whether you are the top of your class, dead-middle like I was (32 out of 64, represent!) or hanging out at the bottom--just walking across the stage is a pretty amazing act in itself. To walk across a college stage to receive your diploma is downright superhuman.
Studying at Indiana State University was brutal, but I love the people I struggled with. I’m glad I was vulnerable, accepted all the help I could get and fought for myself whenever necessary. I definitely got special treatment because I asked for it. Had I not, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate. I would not have the opportunities available to me.
There are so many things to hold you back in life, and you, yourself, shouldn’t be one of them.
While I wish I could have made life a lot easier for my teachers and professors, I am certain my best option in that regard would have been to drop out or drop off. Instead, I fought for myself and my professors continued to fight for me.
I am glad that I chose to be obnoxious and happy rather than silent and suffering.
Because of their help, I am a college graduate and a mediocre journalist, but I am endlessly grateful--as a woman, someone who grew up in poverty and someone who has a disability--because that expensive piece of paper I earned in the end (and still have $2,000 left to pay to the university controller before I can finally, physically pick up), those high school and college degrees have given me mobility.
Kristen Inman is a staff writer at the Greene County Daily World. She can be reached at Kristengcdw@gmail.com.