We did it. We have achieved our goals with every obstacle that stood in our way over the last year or two. A worldwide pandemic? We did it anyway, and we will be able to tell this story to our children and their children about how we conquered whatever came our way.
My journey may be different from yours. Some of you are young and continued your education right out of high school and headed to a university to make your own way in the world.
Some of us, myself particularly, have tried and failed at school and life more than once. This isn't my first attempt at a college education. In fact, this is my 3rd, and every time has been for something completely different. At 19, I went to cosmetology school but soon realized that it wasn't for me. I was later married and divorced and had my little boy, Eli, to take care of. When I was 25, I came to ECC for phlebotomy. I enjoyed the classes and did well, but I wasn't passionate about it. I was in a good relationship with a great man, and we had two more little boys, Ezekiel and Odin, but I was back into the same cycle of dead-end jobs that didn't fulfill me or provide for my family.
Not long after I had my youngest, I had an emotional phone call with my mom about what I was doing with my life - How was I going to provide for three little boys? We started talking about trade work, and she finally asked, "What about welding? Those three words have changed the entire course of my life. What about welding? It rekindled a memory about a paper I had written in high school about who I would be when I was 70. I wrote about an artist, a sculpture, a welder. A woman standing strong surrounded by a lifetime of creations. I wrote this primarily for the grade because it was a good story, not because I actually believed it.
Since coming back to ECC in 2018, I have accomplished more than I could have imagined. I have been on the cover of ECC's IMPACT magazine and featured in the Chicago Tribune. I had my graduate essay published. I was featured on the cover and interviewed for a national magazine called "The Welder." I was a guest speaker for Women in Management, an organization that features the top women in their respective fields at a monthly luncheon. My photo hangs on the walls of this campus. I'm a member of Phi Theta Kappa, even though I almost didn't graduate high school, and I'm currently employed as a welder at a company with room to grow.
I don't tell you this to brag. I tell you this because three years ago, this wasn't even a dream. I walked into the program knowing nothing about welding and was very lost in my own life and have walked out as a completely different person. I have grown beyond words. I owe the majority of this to my support system and the instructors in the welding program. Every day, I walked into class, and they were ready to teach us. They were energetic and encouraging, and you could see their passion for what they did, and it made me want to work harder. It made me excited to wake up every day and go to class. They have instilled that passion in me that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Looking back now, the paths I took weren't really wrong. They eventually led me right where I needed to be. My "failures" were not really failures; they were times that I needed to look within myself and grow. It may have hurt at the time that it didn't work out. But life has a funny way of not letting things work out if they aren't meant to be. I would not have been the student I have been for the last three years had I taken this program any sooner in my life. We all make decisions, and every decision has a consequence, whether good or bad. We have to weigh out the risk. I took the risk of going back to school with three children and putting the majority of the financial burden on my husband. We took that risk, and it has more than paid off. Regardless of where you are in your life, every choice you make is leading you to where you need to be. You just need to find the right path and fight to stay on it.
Taryn White, Carpentersville
Associate of Applied Science