Alexis Aguilera, a junior at Blackburn, was chosen to speak at the recent National Give Back Foundation dinner. As the only college student addressing the hundreds of attendees, Alexis offered a very personal account of her Blackburn experience.
My name is Alexis Aguilera. I am an elementary education major, and in my sophomore year at Blackburn College. I am finishing my first year as a student manager and looking forward to my new Manager position for the upcoming school year. Within the two years that I have attended Blackburn, I have grown tremendously; the person I was is no longer who I am. Naturally, the thought of entering college is often exciting and terrifying for incoming students. The fear of the unknown is a fear that many face before the actual experience itself. However, the excitement is what surfaces when the initial fear has been challenged with opportunity and a step into the future. The expectation to stand on our own two feet and take responsibility for our education and future—that’s some scary stuff, right? Without a doubt, the transition from high school to college is significant. For many, going away to college is expected, and sadly there are so many students who will never see it for anything more than just that; an expectation. However, for me, college has proven to be such an opportunity. Right here, this is where I’ve truly found my voice. Today I am able to speak for myself, and expect more from myself and for myself; College has been my opportunity for growth.
I’ve always struggled with the social part of being teenager, especially in high school. Many people didn’t know me by my name. So I thought that when I attended college, I could change who I was, and no one would know. No one would know where I came from and the life I grew up with. However when I attended Blackburn, I found it was hard to do that. Blackburn is a place of honesty, integrity, and family. I still struggle with the social aspect of being a college student, but Blackburn has given me opportunities I know I wouldn’t have received anywhere else.
Blackburn has a story unlike any other school. Blackburn College is the only nationally recognized Work College whose Work Program is student-managed. In further detail, we have 2 general managers whose jobs entail managing the 12 department managers, as well as their departments. Students who attend here have the opportunity to work off a certain amount of their tuition. The work program at Blackburn is an opportunity all by itself for many students as it is supplies students with the skills necessary to prepare them for a life after college. I worked in the dining hall when I first attended Blackburn. Within my first two months I became the assistant manager of discipline in my department. My job entailed giving out write ups, and making sure students followed the guidelines. My department manager had a lot of faith in me, and throughout my hectic freshman year, she was one of the many people who impacted my life. Many other people encouraged me to apply for manager of my department, and that I did. Within my freshman year of college I had held two leadership roles on campus.
On the first day of my sophomore year, I lost someone in my family very unexpectedly. I was just beginning my first year of being manager. I was prepared, I was organized, I was ready, but I was also broken. The death of my grandma hurt like no other. However, Blackburn was understanding in a way in which allowed me to mourn just enough to reconnect with my family. It allowed me peace and rekindling of relationships with them, that made me want to continue with school, and so I returned. I acknowledged my sadness when it was time, but overall I stayed focused and determined to finish what I had started. My manager position kept me going; it gave me something to look forward to each day. Although I was busier than I had ever been, the work kept me on my feet. Holding a manager position allowed me to grow in so many ways. Before I knew it, I was someone people looked up to. I had become someone I never knew I could be, and that is all thanks to Blackburn.
What they don’t stress enough before college is how important communication is. Communicating with your coworkers, professors, and especially with your family; It is seriously important. It’s easy to get lost in the college life and lose track with what’s happening back at home. It’s normal to return home and feel like the odd one out. When you go away for school, that’s just what tends to happen. You have two lives, and where half of you is, the other half isn’t. When you go home for breaks, though you may not always want to go back, you hug your mom, hug your dad, hug your siblings, and it reminds you that you are leaving for a reason. Communicating is and will always be key. You won’t always be able to be everywhere, but remember to make time for those you love.
I chose Blackburn for so many reasons. As manager, I am able to have a greater understanding of why I choose to become a teacher. I want to be the person that people can talk to and trust. Blackburn supplies me with the tools that are necessary to set me up for success. The environment is inclusive, diverse, and prepares every student that they possibly can for the rest of their lives. Blackburn has become a home away from home, for me. The small campus truly makes me feel important. In class, I am known by my name. Around campus I am able to connect with students who know me. I am happy here, thriving here, and so much more. So I thank my family for the love, support and understanding that they continually give me from where they stand, often four hours away. I thank my grandma, for watching over me and guiding me through every tough time. I thank the give something back program for the opportunities they continue to give me, and for initially leading me to Blackburn. Ultimately, I thank Blackburn for supporting me, setting me up for success, continuing to believe in me, and providing me with the skills and people I’ll have in my life for a lifetime.
If you are here wondering what you want to do, or where you want to go, choose to go to school, choose Blackburn because with no doubt in my mind, I know you can succeed here.