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The Value of Community College

by Rebekah Michael - May 9, 2022

I got it.

You see what you want to see. Is the space filled? Is it empty? Do you feel uplifted, eyes drawn up to the cables in the rafters, or do you feel that swooping, almost-fell-out-of-a-roller-coaster, dreamed-you-were-falling sensation, eyes drawn down to the folds just barely hovering above the cold concrete floor?

I saw an impossibility. A level of privilege that I would never get to enjoy.

Art galleries on the weekends, really? And who, pray tell, would scoop the ice cream or preapprove credit card sales on the hard to see pumps or carefully write a check for rent?

You see, my tiny liberal arts college with its rich history and seemingly silly traditions didn’t get it.

My visiting art teacher and her giant suspended burlap sack art installation that we were supposed to visit on Friday night didn’t get it.

I wish I had the fancy towels, and the cupboard full of snacks, and the new car. I wish my shower shoes looked different from my go-to-class shoes. I wish the fraternity brothers hadn’t mistaken my mom’s dirty cardboard box of motor oil and antifreeze for more of my belongings on move-in day. I wish I could sleep in on Saturdays instead of working at the local gas station and ice cream shop combo (it boasted a taco bell too – quite the destination, this establishment). I wish I could clear my head and enjoy the German immersion class and the “this isn’t English 101, it’s different and better but somehow won’t transfer anywhere but why would you want it to?” class and the Calculus class. I wish college was an experience and not a means to an end.

But wishing wasn’t going to scoop the ice cream or pay the bills or accomplish the goal.

I got it. I was on a mission.

They didn’t get it, so I moved on. What I found was the dirty gray predictability of Morehead and the refreshing malleability of ACTC. No one asked me to do anything but my work. No one taught me anything except exactly what I needed to know. No one demanded a moment of my time on the weekends, no one cared what kind of car I drove, and no one made me feel less than.

Dirty gray Morehead became a peaceful place. I found a rhythm, just fast enough to challenge me but not so fast that I was left behind. I walked down the steps to Combs, up the steps to my classrooms, scribbled thousands of journal entries and listened to hundreds of lectures and wrote dozens of papers.

Refreshingly malleable ACTC became my saving grace. I found a solution, and when life got hard and I lost my way, I was able to fill in the gaps and fix the mishaps. I logged into my classes, diligently chipping away at my gen eds and required core. I studied ecology and economics and criminal justice and philosophy and film. Every single credit transferred.

They got it.

They saw possibility. A level of responsibility to meet me where I was.

They let me walk the Pathway that I didn’t have a choice but to choose. They took all that I carried into consideration, and carefully handed me just enough to make me stronger but not break.

I celebrate two things: the role that community college played in changing my life, and the privilege of serving my community from the other side of the desk.

 

050922-bekah-michaelRebekah Michael is the Business Administration program coordinator and a full-time faculty member at ACTC. She is a certified public accountant with ten years of industry experience, a Morehead state alum (BBA and MBA), and a passionate amateur woodworker. She enjoys fancy coffee and plain old regular run of the mill no frills no thrills everyday coffee, getting her hands dirty as an HVACR apprentice, and cherishing every day with her son, daughter, life partner, and beloved dog. Her son, daughter, and life partner are also beloved, but the dog is exceptional.