The easiest time to go to school full time for most is when young and still living at home or when older and more financially settled. Not much in life happens the easy way, however. More likely, community college students are seeking to balance family, work, and education. If you add in adversities, the stress increases.
Recently we needed a bit of home repair, and the worker was about fifty, divorced, and taking a night class at Hopkinsville Community College every night after his day’s work. He said, “I have to stay busy, so I don’t get into trouble.” I thought to myself, “How long can that work?”
Then I met a twenty-two year old young man whose mother had given him the boot, so he had moved to the local shelter. Right away I could see how he notices so many details. He notices pictures hanging on the wall, things people say and do, and details in a text that you read and discuss with him. He shows keenness in what is called critical analysis.
When I met him, he had already aspired to college and was enrolling in HCC on financial aid, and got approved. This is wonderful. Yet, he got dismissed from the shelter, and it turns out he has a pattern of getting himself uninvited. His dear mother loves him but wants him to make his way and learn to stick in with situations without hosts and employers asking him to leave.
Presently, he is living at a motel, paying rent by the week and doing jobs that a few new adults in his life have helped him get.
But it looks like flashing yellow lights indeed to attempt to live at a motel, work strenuous jobs, and try to go to school full time. How appealing will it be in the fall term when after a long day, he then has school? Perhaps, night classes will be the answer to the temptation to slump in front of the television all evening every night after work or to create “a life” as many call it.
Both these students—the fifty year old workman going to school four nights a week and the twenty-two year old who knows a bit too much right now—are endangered from the beginning. It doesn’t look safe or reasonable necessarily to attempt school full time. But they think that it is necessary.
That says a lot for their view of education and the growing awareness in our culture that without education, more doors are closing. Even students not interested in classical definitions of education are finding that the community college is the port of call for professions that call for technical training.
Last night, I felt deeply disturbed over the students who face flashing yellow lights. Dreams are essential; fantasies don’t work. Dreams have sweat dripping from them before all is over.
Could it be better to not attempt what doesn’t appear to have enough chance of success? That is a skill—to size up situations and not overcommit. However, it could also be true that to get some experience in going to school is a good thing even if everything doesn’t work at first. One can stand back and look at what didn’t work and invent a new strategy.
I’ve marveled at how many times Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb. We don’t think that he was crazy, and part of it is because he’s in the history books, and we are looking back. That’s always easier.
Will these two students make it through? Hopefully they will. It’s good not to fear failure. It’s prudent to plan against it but a sign of growth to regroup when it happens and move on without despair. Flashing yellow lights cause one to slow down and look—hopefully on the way to resuming full speed.