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Scholarships open doors to possibilities

By Sharrell Duncan, staff writer
On April 26, 2014

  • Breaking the mold - Former art department chairman Richard Akers poses with his self-portrait, In the Woods, in the Eddie Rhodes Gallery on Sept. 3. Akers is currently serving as Academic Senate president. (Sam Attal / The Advocate)

For some people, going to college adds a tremendous financial strain on their lives.
Still, each school year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships go unclaimed.
Is it because students are convinced they won't be awarded them, or do students just not know about these opportunities? Some students might not even know where to start.
For many students, community college is considered their last stop, because they don't believe they can afford to move on to a four-year institution, when, in fact, they may be eligible for many scholarships and grants.
I never believed that transferring to a four-year school was possible for me.
Growing up in a poor neighborhood, my early life was shaped by brutality and loss.
Gang violence took both my father and my brother away from me at a young age.
Suddenly I felt more alone than ever before.
The loss of my father and brother had not only been hard on me emotionally, but also gave way to new financial struggles.
When my mom was unable to make ends meet, I had to find some way to help support my family.
I was forced to grow up fast and I started doing things that I wouldn't normally do - things that went against everything I believed in. I got deeper and deeper into the same dangerous lifestyle that had already taken away so many people I loved.
Suddenly, I was trapped and began to think there was no hope of getting out.
It wasn't until I began attending Contra Costa College that I started to turn my life around.
Through education I discovered my potential and realized I had more options.
I began to realize that education offered me a way out of a life I didn't want to live, but felt forced into.
Now that I am ready to graduate and move on to a four-year college, I am confronted with new struggles.
After barely making it at a junior college, I didn't know how I was going to face the daunting tuition costs of a university.
If it weren't for the multiple scholarship opportunities that had been offered to me, continuing my education, and becoming the first person in my family to attend a four-year institution wouldn't have been possible for me.
Scholarships are out there.
There is help available for those who need it, like me.
But, there is not much information around campus about these opportunities.
While searching for scholarships, I found myself pretty much on my own.
It was challenging to search and apply for scholarships without any help, but I made do.
Being a serious student is stressful enough. With big workloads some students barely have time to do anything else.
Adding economic hardships and the stress of filling out intricate application forms, students can easy find themselves overwhelmed.
I believe there should be more opportunities for students to work with professors to receive guidance and help throughout the application process.
It is important because, for many, scholarships can change the outcome of their lives and fund their dreams. 

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