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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...How I got to Liberty University's Class of 2012: 25 Days to go

This morning epitomizes why I think a college degree is so valuable, even if you never work in the field you studied. Let me explain why I hold this belief...
You go through a lot to get a degree. It's hard work. I know there are trust-fund babies and kids with rich parents who pay for everything and send their kids off to college with a credit card and a new car and who never do much more than party their way to a "B" and go work for Daddy in his law firm when they graduate. We've all seen "Animal House" and we think that's what college life is about. But it's not that way for most people.
Most college students...especially adults who return to school later, and who are leading a full time life while taking full time classes...are pushing the envelope. They work a 40+ hour week and they study an average of 2 hours per class per day and they have family opportunities (family is never an "obligation") and social responsibilities and church and home ownership...all the things we do every day that taxes our time, a college student who returns to complete or continue their education does them too. On top of the additional 4 hours or so per day of schoolwork. (if you're taking 2 classes per sub semester)
My time is so tight that I have to "schedule" going to the grocery store. And sleep is optional for me right now. That's not me being extreme, that's the truth. This last semester has been the most taxing of the 6 it has taken me to graduate. When I make it to the end and I graduate, I will look back on a 3 year journey of hardship, sacrifice, trial and testing that I have not endured in my life before. My divorce, 12 years ago was a soul-killing difficulty. But I had my job and I was successful at it and I owned a home and I had fewer worries about the day-to-day living issues that I have now. Learning the mortgage business 14 years ago was difficult and stressful but I had a good group of co-workers who rallied around each other and motivated each other.
This entire pursuit of my degree has been fought alone. I have some folks back home who care for me and love me, and ask about my schooling, but my immediate circle is empty. In TN I don't really know anyone well enough to be able to "vent" as I occasionally need to. I am seldom ever asked about my studies or how I am doing with my educational pursuits. I have learned the value of encouragement by feeling the vacuum of its absence.
If I were an employer, and an applicant came to my office for an interview and told me he just finished his degree later in life I would instantly know he has far more qualifications than just what the transcript tells me. I would know, from my own experience that a person who finishes college...
  • Knows how to budget his time because he has more demands than the average non-student. Especially if he returned to school and juggled family and job obligations along the way.
  • Knows how to adapt and be flexible. Because not much goes as planned in a college pursuit, particularly, again, where the student is older and has "real life" obligations.
  • Is fiercely determined. Because this is not easy, regardless of what you are studying, higher education is tough, you will be tested.
  • Manages his life. Because every second...I mean every second is precious in this life I lead. I could honestly tell an employer that I'd be amongst his most productive employees merely because I have developed the habit of making the most of every second I have, because I have to.
  • Is confident. If only because of the battles he's won and the ability he has to look backward with pride at what this degree cost him and what that cost gave him.
  • Is honest. Face it...if you are going to cheat your way through life you can find some mail-order school to grant you a degree without any study at all. If you go to the trouble of getting a degree you most likely did it with integrity. Case in point...the Algebra class I'm taking is killing me. It's what is keeping me up late into the night and again in the morning. It's why I am stressed and suffering from terrible vertigo. I could, as a friend suggested, probably find a High School student who could come to my house, sit at my computer and for $100 whip through this class for me and nobody would ever know.  I'd be lying if I told you I hadn't considered it. But that would render my degree useless as far as I am concerned. I would rather go sleepless and actually learn the algebra. I think 99% of the students who go back later in life feel the same way. I can tell you that my classmates feel that way...I can see it in their Discussion Boards and Blogs and class assignments. These are a passionate bunch who are all giving it their very best. A cheater would be easy to spot in a group like the people I go to class with at Liberty U online.
  • He is no quitter. Of all the lessons I learned I guess this is the one that has shaped me most. I didn't quit on my daughter when I lost my home as the mortgage industry collapsed and I was downsized right out of a career. I slept in my car instead of slinking away to some other city where there was work. I stayed and endured the humiliation and crushing weight of homelessness because I am a dad. I endured the workload and demands of finishing my degree because I wanted a better life for us both. I wanted something to be proud of again. I wanted to know what it felt like to have a college degree and be a real alumni. I wanted to have something to look at in a life marked with some very recent losses and say "Here's where I won. And if I could win this, I can win any battle I face, if only because I outlast it" 
So...there you have it. This is what a college education gives you that the degree and the transcript doesn't say. Tough times don't build character, tough times reveal it. A person learns a lot about the character they have when they pursue that degree. I know college isn't for everyone, but it's not just the classroom education that you're getting. You are learning about your major, but you are also learning about yourself. I know I've learned more than I thought I would about my major--Religion-- and my minor--Life coaching. I also learned more than I thought I would about  myself. I learned how fierce I can be when I want something this much. I learned how much I will endure to get someplace better. I learned how important hope is. I learned what encouragement is worth. Because I learned those lessons, in 25 days I will be...
Craig Daliessio
Liberty University
Class of 2012

Until tomorrow...

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