It Only Matters How You Finish!

Parkland College Student Trustee Crystal Bates (above, third from right) details below her determined journey to get to, and succeed at, Parkland College.

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Life threw me a couple of curve balls long before I had ever chosen to take swing at bat:

I was recruited by the US Navy at age 17 and spent two years doing secure communications in a foreign land. I had joined because my options were to go to college, join the military, or enter the workforce with zero training or experience.

I came back home and the years slipped away from me; I was busy trying to have fun with the least amount of responsibility possible. I worked retail for almost 10 years before retail took a big hit because of the tight economics. The job was not fulfilling, and each day I dreamed of how I could escape this tedious work that made me feel so mundane. Soon, I was laid off from my job and so worked various short-term jobs to pay the bills and take care of my daughter.

Next thing I knew, four more years had passed, and I was pregnant with twins! This was a shock; I believe that most of that pregnancy I really thought the doctors were kidding. After 34 weeks in, we found out that one of the twins was in distress and had to be delivered immediately. Realization set in when I was holding two healthy, and happy babies. Now I was a mother of three. This was my title, my work. But all the while, I’m dreaming of a better life for my children and me. How was I ever going to accomplish anything with three small children? With passion and unbridled determination.

I had a fire burning inside me, and the only way to put it out was to invest in myself for the benefit of my children, myself, and others. Dreams that I was in school, receiving an education that no one would ever be able to take away from me, drew me to Parkland College, where I knew they held the keys to my dreams.

Application for admission, assessments, orientation, student ID—before long, I was officially a Cobra! Upon meeting with a counselor, she revealed the degree of my dreams: Associates of Arts in Psychology. I signed up for fall classes immediately. Was I nervous? Super nervous.

As a matter of fact, I would come early just so I could find friends to keep the panic attacks at bay. The circle of friends I have made have been some of the best friends a person could ask for! We help each other with assignments and are there for each other for social and emotional support. These connections with students and our professors has kept me at Parkland for my (now) fifth year, as a nontraditional student.

I have had to take longer than most, but I graduate in the spring of 2017. Has it taken me longer than that of traditional students? Sure it has, but I have a 3.2 overall GPA, all because I took considerable time on assignments and made sure that my grades were a high priority. Also, because I have determination and passion, I have held two offices in Student Government. I started out as a student senator and have currently been voted and sworn in as student trustee.

My time at Parkland is coming to an end, and I am so sad. This is such a great institution with amazing professionals who make it their personal goal to see each and every student succeed. I have been so fortunate to have built such amazing social connections because Parkland feels like an educational “family”. Besides fantastic professors, the Center for Academic Success has assisted me in ensuring that my GPA is as solid as it is. CAS is an amazing tool that each and every student has access to. I cannot speak highly enough about our tutors and our Writing Lab! Use these free tools that help make each one of us better students and extremely qualified professionals in our chosen field of study.

Has it been hard to go to school with little kids? Of course. It is a balancing act, just the same as daily life is. But I decided to tip the scales in my favor and invest in my personal academic path. Do I plan to transfer? Absolutely. I am not done yet. I have developed an addiction to learning as much as I can, as long as I can. The end result will be a mater’s degree in clinical psychology. Being a veteran, I feel I have a duty to help my brothers and sisters in their struggles to maintain normalcy, and this is whom I hope to work with, for the most part.

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