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2023 - Clarissa Murphy: My self-doubt was replaced by faith in my abilities as a student

Tags: Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/12/2023
Elgin Community College December 2023 graduate Clarissa Murphy

Elgin Community College December 2023 graduate Clarissa Murphy

When I graduated high school in 2015, I had no desire to pursue higher education. In fact, I was extremely convinced that I wouldn't be successful in it, but I attended ECC to attempt to meet expectations. I had no idea how to apply myself as a student and wasn’t confident I had anything to apply. I ultimately stopped attending classes and dropped out. Following this, I moved through various careers, searching for something that I could see myself in the long term that felt purposeful. I had no idea what I was looking for.

In 2020, I was knocked down hard. My mother was diagnosed with cancer for a second time, my grandmother passed away, a pandemic was declared, and one of my best friends took his own life. For a while, time stood eerily still as my mental health deteriorated. I had too much time to question who I was and who I wanted to be. 

Exhausted from feeling stuck, I chose to do the most challenging thing I could think of at the time. I joined a plumbing company, became an apprentice, and took plumbing courses. There, I found that I loved being in a classroom again. I loved debating and solving things with others, and I loved that even in plumbing, things were hardly ever black and white. It was here I recognized that I could learn and do hard things.

I let this love for learning carry me into signing up for a human services course and retaking English 101 at ECC on a whim, where I realized I could be a great student. I had no original intent of joining the Human Services program; in truth, I went in thinking of project management, but I’d always been passionate about connecting with folks, mental wellness, and listening to people's stories. I took a few classes at a time to grow my confidence as a student, and before I knew it, I was here in my final semester. Slowly and through many growing pains, my self-doubt was replaced by faith in my abilities as a student. I would not have made it through without the remarkable professors I’ve had that helped me see the skills I was already bringing to the table. My warmest thanks to my professors, Dr. Liddy Hope, Dr. Joe Rosenfeld, and Brian Bohr, for believing so much in their students that their students have no choice but to believe in themselves, too.

When I first started at ECC for the second time, I was unsure who I was and wanted to be. I now see myself as the compassionate, hard-working, creative, and consecutive President’s list-achieving student that I am. I can’t wait to see where else this wild ride takes me. Thanks, ECC. Glad to know ya.


Clarissa Murphy ‘23

Associate of Applied Science – Human Services Generalist

Elgin, Ill.