BY JORDAN BARTH
Graduation — it is finally within reach.
After countless club meetings, long evenings spent doing homework and hundreds of coffee refills and trips to Starbucks in order to study for exams, the end is in sight.
Let’s rewind back to August 2012. I had just graduated from Randolph High School attending County College of Morris as an overly confident, self-absorbed teenager who was annoyed at failing to reach his true potential in high school. I was not joining my friends at some of our nation’s most prestigious universities, which annoyed me further. I was heavily involved in the Randolph Performing Arts Department throughout my high school tenure until social politics within the department got the better of me. I carried a sense of entitlement that I was better than the education CCM could provide me with. This institution was the last place I wanted to be.
CCM was not my only choice in deciding where I would attend in the fall of 2012. I was accepted into other quality institutions including: Quinnipiac University and University of Hartford with financial aid attached to the offer of admission. I could have attended one of the colleges or universities that I applied to earlier that year for freshman admission and been superficially happy.
Ultimately, it was not what I wanted. I felt as if I deserved to study in Boston or Washington, D.C. But what if I needed to come home and attend CCM because I got dangerously ill or I was unable to keep up with the workload. At least $25,000 would have already been shelled out. For what, a life lesson? It’d be quite an expensive one at that.
The journey to reach this moment has not been without its struggles, though. On multiple occasions, I forced myself to refocus and set the continual reminder of the end goal after CCM: attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and it’s certainly not an easy one to achieve by any stretch of the imagination.
I could have easily been caught up in a cyclical environment where some students go through the day without speaking up. The thought is “I’ll get my degree someday,” but there is a sense of resignation that the listener can feel in the speaker’s voice. The apathy shown by some students in their willingness to learn is astonishing. I’ve noticed this especially here in some of my classes. Considering the academic environment that I grew up in, Randolph Township, I quickly realized though that if I showed that same drive, I would have stuck out like a sore thumb.
Along the way, I’ve come across professors who have completely changed my outlook of this world and made me question the status quo. There are some truly amazing staff and faculty members who I will cherish but fail to get recognized for their tireless efforts. As a whole, they deserve much respect, gratitude and far more.
I challenge instructors in all disciplines to raise the standards that they hold their students to. I understand that pushback by the student body may ensue, grade appeals which may increase in the short term, and instructor workload may increase but ultimately, this is college. It is supposed to be challenging and rewarding. It is an honor to even have an opportunity at becoming college-educated. It is highly disappointing when the AP classes you took in high school require far more time and effort than their college-level equivalents. As an institute of higher learning, we can do better; the student body deserves better.
Adult students coming to the institution for a career change or to be retrained in necessary skills, the nontraditional “college kids,” bring a unique and fascinating perspective to the classroom. I bet few of my friends have had classmates who are a recent board of education member, a police officer who serves as security detail for national figures and major events or a former Marine who served our nation for more than 15 years before retiring. These are just a few of the stories that have personally touched me; there are countless others left untold. Few four-year colleges and universities can give a student the opportunity of gaining a working professional’s insight learned mainly through time and experience.
Looking back at the choice I made two years ago: was CCM the best option for me? I’m not sure. I cannot respond to that question with a resounding yes or no, though I will say that my time here has been beneficial in personal growth and maintaining my personal finances. My attendance has reminded me of the hard-working men and women that reside at all levels of educational bureaucracy.
The moral of the story here: your education is only what you make of it.