In the words of Rafiki

As cliché as it sounds, if you would have told me at 21 years old that I’d be graduating from a university with a degree in journalism, I’d laugh. I’d laugh because I’d be surprised and over the moon that I made it.

I was the girl who had very low self-esteem. The girl who had given up on school numerous times and even gave up on life. I turned to heavy partying to cope with the pain I had been enduring.

Graduating from college was a celebration I had dreamed about achieving for as long as I could remember, but never thought I’d live to see the day.

At 26 years old, I’m finally graduating from California State University Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. I’m letting that sink in. I have grown up watching and reading the news, entertainment, breaking news and the weather, I watched it all.

I wanted to be a journalist, but knew I’d never be one. Or so I thought.

Life has never been easy, but is it ever easy for anyone? The idea of giving up is far more appetizing than fighting through the tunnel of darkness to reach the light you’ve been searching for.

My family and I have struggled to be where we are now. In 2014, we left my dad. We were unsure of what the future would hold for us, scared and numb.

We were homeless for six months. We lived in a motel, then moved into a small room for us. All five of us worked to pay rent and pay for groceries, all while attending community college. The immense sadness and unknown direction kept me from wanting to continue my education.

As of 2023, we will all officially have our bachelor’s degrees, including my mom. Our lives looked so different from where we are now.

Because of the people who have tirelessly never given up on me, I’m here. I’m here not only because of them but because I didn’t give up on myself.

At times it really felt like I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean, gasping for air. But I always somehow made it.

In 2020, I decided to officially go back to school for good. No more breaks. If I was going to get my degree, I was going to get my degree. And then COVID-19 hit. I had to decide. It was easy for me to quit it all again or keep going.

For the first time, I had my eye on the prize. I wanted my journalism degree, and I wanted to walk across that stage and hear my name called.

I would not be where I am today without my older sister BreeAnn, her husband Mike and my fiancé Chris. They have constantly encouraged me, helped me, stayed up with me and loved me at my worst.

My mom and step-dad, Michelle and Albert, have also guided me and been my biggest cheerleaders. My two sisters, who have never given up through the worst trials, and I are all graduating this year. WE DID IT.

Hope and perseverance are so hard to attain but so worth it. When life hurts, it’s your story you are writing. No one else gets to write your story.

As Rafiki from “The Lion King” once said, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.”

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