Graduate School Personal Statement

I said I would post my final personal statement for grad school. Here you go! :)


Around this time last year, I was in the fall semester of my senior year at Elon University preparing to student teach in the Spring. I was taking seven classes and working part-time as a barista at a local cafe. I was also desperately struggling to find a place to live.

Homelessness does not happen all at once; it is a process. For me, it began when I lost a large portion of my financial aid package and was forced to give up my room and move off campus. A month later, I lost my job, which was the only way I was able to afford rent. That weekend, I moved my life into my ancient Buick. I commuted from Raleigh twice a week to refill my suitcase and get food from my mother’s apartment. The rest of the week I spent sleeping on friends’ couches, in my car, and sometimes the library. The majority of the financial support I received from my mother was spent towards gas, so I became adept at improvising meals. I attended events with free food, found faculty lounges with coffee makers, and made friends with dining hall workers who occasionally gave me leftovers. Although I was not sleeping outside, being completely reliant on the generosity of others for my basic needs brought me painfully close. I developed a system so I could stay in school; it worked for a short while.

Food and housing instability made every other aspect of my life infinitely more difficult. The stress, anxiety and isolation I felt was a constant ominous shadow looming over me. I felt unhinged and was not able to focus on anything for long. My academic performance suffered severely as a result. I was not able to successfully complete student teaching, and my GPA plummeted after that semester. For me, this experience impacted my final year so much as to change the course of my college career. I had to change my major and my postgraduate plans; I had to change my dream. I later realized that this loss led directly to a new passion and career in higher education.

It was not until a week before final exams that I found a place to live. The church I was attending at that time has a program that allows families to “adopt” college students, so they can have home cooked meals and a place to stay during holidays – I was in need of both. When they learned of my situation, my adopted family invited me to rent out their spare room for a nominal fee for the rest of the year and provide me with meals every day, an invitation I accepted gratefully.

This experience stretched me to my limit. I had to rebuild my identity, but recovering from so thorough a failure is not easy. I spent weeks trying to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent something like this from happening again. I had to work through resentment towards my circumstances, my professors, and myself. I had to take responsibility for my shortcomings and forgive myself. I decided that who I am is not what I have done; that what matters most is not that I had failed, but what I would do afterwards. I had to regain my confidence in my ability to not only be an excellent student, but a successful future professional. While all my friends were student teaching that Spring, I was taking the few remaining classes I needed to graduate. I made it my goal to finish my academic career strong; a goal I achieved when I made the Dean’s List my last semester.

I recently spoke at a panel hosted by the National Coalition for the Homeless at Elon University. It was difficult to talk about this experience publicly in front of my peers, some of whom I had classes with last fall. Afterwards, an audience member asked me what kept me from dropping out and trying again the next year. I told her that it was pure stubbornness. I knew if I did not finish then, I most likely would never finish my degree. For me, giving up and dropping out would have been a worse failure, even though it would have saved me from going through pain.

The compassion shown for me through this experience has deepened my commitment to working with college students to help them graduate, achieve their personal and career goals, and develop as individuals. Struggling with housing instability while in college opened my eyes to how inequities can lead to dire circumstances, and how difficult it is to thrive without a stable, safe environment. My background in secondary education taught me just how many students, especially minority students, struggle with access to resources and institutions of higher learning. This has cultivated my interest in social justice, access, and multicultural education; topics I hope to pursue intellectually and practically while completing my graduate degree at <school>. My ultimate goal in pursuing a higher education administration degree is to work with high school and college students to further their education and provide support that will enable them to fulfill their potential.

Since graduating, I have been able to act on my commitment by working as the Dean of Residence Life during Duke University’s 2014 Summer Session. This four week academic program allows high performing students the opportunity to either earn a college credit or take a non-credit class and live on Duke University’s campus. This position was my first glimpse into higher education at the administrative level. I was able to learn about the challenges and rewards of working with a team to carry out residential programs, and practice receiving and acting on feedback in order to improve my work performance and develop professional skills. I believe this experience and others in residence life have prepared me for a degree in higher education. The program at <school> will enable me to build on these experiences and skills and prepare me to become an advocate and future leader on college campuses.


What do you think? How are my chances?

Beck

PS: I know I’m making up for a month of silence in twenty minutes. Whatever. #mylifeisbeck

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Birthday Bash: Buca di Beppo and Crave Dessert Bar

Since I celebrated my 23rd birthday this month, here’s a throwback to my 21st birthday celebration. :)

This is Charlotte

Congratulate me reader, I am now 21 years old. It was a long journey to get here, it took me more than 20 years, but I survived and now I reap the benefits of getting older. It truly is an accomplishment, but enough about how awesome I am for living so long, on to the reviews.

I rode the train into Charlotte a few hours before the birthday festivities began. It was the beginning of my Thanksgiving Break from school. I met my family, after much ado about getting ready, at Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant in Pineville, NC. This is a fairly popular restaurant in the Charlotte area so I won’t go into much detail. Suffice it to say that the food is delicious and the service is great. The atmosphere is cozy and the food is served family-style, which is one of the features that makes this restaurant…

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November in 800 Words or Less

Where have I been all November?

Happy Halloween! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

I’ve thought about writing many times this month, but haven’t made the time to do it, partially because I’ve been busy and partially because I’ve been lazy. Getting used to a new work routine that changes every week has not been fun. I do enjoy some things about my job, but I don’t get to do those things very often. I really want to find a better job that will pay me more than minimum wage.

To celebrate my birthday, my sister and best friend went out to dinner and drank wine. I got Caged, which was hilarious. This was followed later that week with a family dinner that was surprisingly pleasant. No one was fighting or drunk, there was an ice cream cake. Success.

Capture

On the 19th, I spoke at a Faces of Homelessness panel at Elon, my alma mater. I met with the other speakers and some current students for dinner before the panel. One formerly homeless man asked me how many times I had spoken and he looked shocked when I said this was my first time. Then I learned the event was being filmed. I suddenly grew really nervous. I didn’t really know what I was going to say. I had printed out the Pendulum article I wrote in the spring and the blog entries I wrote as well, which I thought would help. The truth is I have often doubted whether what I went through was actually homelessness or something else. One of my former professors blatantly told me I had no right to use that term, so speaking about my experience on a panel about homelessness made me feel a bit like a fake. Hearing the stories of the other speakers made me think what I had gone through was not really that intense or tragic, even if it felt that way to me at the time.

When it was my turn, I started with something about invisible homeless and then spoke about what and how it happened last year. I honestly don’t remember what I said afterwards. It was so difficult to say those things in front of my peers, some of which I had classes with last fall. Did I mention the room was packed? People were sitting all around on the floor and near the door. I didn’t know where to look. I finished by saying that what I went through was only a fraction of what the other speakers had been through and could only imagine how much more difficult it would have been had it not been for my friends and church.

There was a short question and answer session after we shared. I was asked what the school said when I told them. I answered by telling her that there wasn’t anything they really could have done but that was an area of improvement for the school.  Another person asked me what kept me going through the experience. I told her that I was plain stubborn and knew that if I didn’t push through, I wouldn’t have graduated. I also mentioned that my faith in Christ was a huge source of hope and comfort as well as solution for my situation.

After the event was over, people came up to me and shook my hand thanking me for sharing. One guy kept saying how “gusty” it was for me to talk about that in front of my classmates “especially at Elon”. The wife of Elon’s president also spoke to me and said she remembered reading my article in the spring and wished me luck in the future. One student gave me a hug and said that my story moved his friends deeply, even though he had dragged them to the event and they had previously made fun of homeless people. It was so reassuring hearing things like that from the audience. I could tell a lot of them were close to tears, although I can’t claim credit for that. This has given me the courage to claim my experience and speak at further events about homelessness.

I haven’t had the courage to watch the video yet, but I believe there is a video in this Pendulum article.

There are two more things I want to mention in this post. (1) Starting a diet and workout regime during Thanksgiving week is probably the worst week of the year to start anything requiring physical activity and calorie counting. #getswole (2) I APPLIED TO GRAD SCHOOL!!! I should begin to hear back from schools mid-December. Let us pray.

Beck

PS: My friend and future brother-in-law, Andrew, started a blog this month. Check it out y’all. He’s super well-read…like, better than me. #jealous