Thank you to Bryn, a current Seattle Milk Fund student who graciously accepted an invitation to speak to our guests at our Seattle Milk FUNd event in April. Here is the speech she shared with the audience.
It is such a pleasure to be here tonight to share my educational journey with you.
As a fair warning – this speech might involve some tears, but don’t worry, they are tears of honor and joy as I reflect upon some of the lowest and most terrifying moments of my life and realize how far I have come. They are tears of appreciation as I realize that I would not be where I am today without the support from people like you, and programs like the Seattle Milk Fund.
Now, I don’t want to shock you, but, I have a confession to make. I…am a junkie. But, my drug of choice is knowledge. I crave it. The thirst for it keeps me up at night. I will search for it in the shadows, and I am willing to pay high prices for it.
But you know, I haven’t always been so *fortunately* afflicted.
I grew up in a rural town and in a religious community. My religion taught me that it was my calling to be a wife and mother. The more children I could bring into this world, the better. And so, naturally, as a child—my only aspiration was to be a wife, mother, and homemaker.
I never even thought of other possibilities for my life.
I got married to my boyfriend of 3 years when I was 19. Shortly after we welcomed our first son, and then our second son two years later. I was a stay-at-home mom! I was fulfilling my culturally-prescribed role!
But even though, my culture held stay-at-home moms in high esteem, and I had finally fulfilled my aspirations…I found myself feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, and I couldn’t understand why?
Eventually, I realized in order to be happy I had to quit playing a role and be true to myself. So, I questioned and pondered my religion, and ultimately decided that its main priority for me wasn’t the same as mine.
This new understanding was both a blessing and a curse, as it led to my divorce in 2007, which made me a single mother of two young boys ages 2 and 4.
Society isn’t very accommodating to single parents, and I quickly learned that as a displaced homemaker and single mother, I faced many unique obstacles.
My knowledge up to that point consisted solely of concepts related to raising a family, and although managing a family involved many career related skills, I had no formal education beyond high school and no professional experience.
I was faced with the daunting reality that I was an unskilled job candidate unable to compete.
I knew I needed an education, and I thought that I needed a quick one. Something that would get me into a career in as little time as possible.
So, I researched careers that met those parameters and I settled on radiologic science. Yeah. I would be an X-ray tech. That is a respectable career and it was only a two-year program!
So, I made that my goal and I enrolled at Tacoma Community College.
I WAS TERRIFIED.
It had been SEVEN years since I graduated high school. Again – I promptly learned that my lack of education and job skills was only one obstacle I faced.
Another more personally challenging obstacle was my low self-confidence. In fact, after my first college English class, I cried because I thought I was in over my head and too dumb for college.
I have never been more wrong in my entire life.
I greatly underestimated myself because up until then, I had never really been challenged. I did not know how dedicated, determined, and intelligent I really was.
Although I initially assumed I was not cut out for college, ultimately I proved to be an excellent student, and with each passing quarter my confidence grew as I consistently attained a 4.0 GPA while working and raising my kids.
Nevertheless, life has a habit of getting in the way, and it certainly seemed determined to get in mine. Although I was fiercely committed to my education, matters in my personal life created yet another obstacle.
In 2008, there was the economic recession, which was a devastating time for me and my family. By then, I was nine months pregnant and caring for two young children. My new husband was working full-time as a furniture salesman while I worked part-time and attended school. But, because of the downturn, furniture sales tanked, and my husband lost his job.
We had some savings, but we quickly burned through it in order to survive.
My little family almost ended up homeless.
We lost our apartment, and without jobs…we had no money coming in.
Fortunately, because of a very supportive family and the help of some government assistance, we were able to stabilize ourselves and get back on our feet. We were (and still are) very poor. Attending college while raising a family is tough, and there have been many times when I considered quitting just to get a job, any job.
But, despite all of my challenges, I never gave up on my goal. I persevered. I completed all of the prerequisites for the competitive Radiologic Science program at TCC, and was accepted into the 2012 program. I had finally accomplished my first big educational goal, but even though doing so was quite an accomplishment for me, I had grown so much on the path to achieving that one goal, that in the end it was no longer enough.
My educational career began out of necessity: I needed a good paying job. However, my journey taught me that I didn’t want a job simply because it paid well. I learned to set my goals even higher than before.
That is why I withdrew from the radiology program and switched my major to business. I believed that a business degree would afford me more opportunities for personal and professional growth, as well as the ability to make a difference in this world.
I transferred to Olympic College and in 2014 I earned my Associates in Business as a Presidential Scholar and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I transferred to UW’s Foster Business School in winter 2015, and even though I had to commute three hours each way for the first half of the quarter, got sick with a nasty flu that put me out for a week, and moved my family from Suquamish to Seattle, I completed my first quarter at Fosters with a 3.53 GPA and made the Dean’s List, and I have been on the Dean’s List ever since.
I am now two quarters away from graduating with my B.A. in Business Administration with a double focus in Marketing and Information systems.
My professional goal is to own several socially responsible businesses that make significant contributions to the community in which they operate. I want to use my businesses to make a difference in people’s lives, and to one day be in your shoes, helping others attain their educational dreams.
My personal goal is to show my children, and my nieces and nephews, that they can accomplish their goals if they too have fortitude. I want to show them how an education can enrich their lives and allow them to enrich the lives of those around them. I want to show them what it means to thirst for knowledge and truth, and how the truth can make us free.
However, I know that I could not have accomplished as much as I have so far, nor will I be able to continue to accomplish my future goals, without the generous support of people like you.
In the short term, attending college only exacerbates financial burdens; college credits and degrees are not cheap. Finding the means to pay for both normal needs and college expenses is not easy, especially when there are children to consider.
The child care grant, the family support grant, and the wonderful extra bonus support provided by the Seattle Milk Fund gives us the extra funding we need. So instead of racking up debt, or working the night shift somewhere to make ends meet, my husband and I are able to focus that time on our studies.
We are able to sleep better at night and with less stress because we know that our children’s day care is taken care of, and our textbooks are paid for, so we are better able to afford rent, utilities, and groceries. With the support from the Seattle Milk Fund, we don’t have to waste time and energy worrying about how we will pay for such basic necessities.
The Seattle Milk Fund greatly reduces our financial burden, which gives me the freedom to not only meet, but exceed my educational goals, and for that, I am forever grateful.