This I Believe: The Numbers that Define Me

Feb 19, 2019

I believe that students, regardless of financial status, should be able to go to college. For the majority of my life, my family has struggled with financial issues, but looking at the bank account does not even scratch the surface of the problems that has caused. 

That number does not tell you all the times I had to tell my friends I could not go with them, because I had no money. That number does not tell you all the nights I could not sleep, debating whether I wanted to tell my parents I needed new clothes or if I should try to stitch them up again. That number does not tell you all the stress, anger, and tears I have had to endure. By that same token, that number does not show who I am. It does not tell you that I am the valedictorian of my class. It does not tell you I am the leader of two different clubs. It does not tell you all I have done. In short: that number does not define me except for in one area: college.

Now, I have been fortunate, I was lucky enough to be accepted into a program for low-income students and now no longer have to worry about college. The same cannot be said for so many around me, those who have dealt with the same struggles, or worse ones, just to try and make it through everyday life. To get where I am now, I had to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop, just to prove that I was worth even considering for a scholarship. While my peers can worry themselves with prom or the Friday night game, I am forced to keep my nose forever to the grind, too scared to mess up and lose everything. The worst part is that even if I do try my best, work my hardest, do everything I possibly can to get to college, it may still not be enough. I might not get enough scholarship money, I might not get enough federal aid, and I am left to think that I am simply not enough.

My future should not be determined by luck because what I have accomplished in spite of my circumstances has not been by luck. No, it has been through hard work, tears and a burning dedication. I believe money should not be the factor stopping students from going to college because you cannot possibly put a price on someone who could change the world if they were simply given a chance.

Jessica Markley reading her essay at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise.
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Jessica Markley receiving her scholarship at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise meeting.
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS