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The People You Meet: Community and the Community College

June 05, 2007

The back-to-school jitters kicked in just as I climbed into the elevator. Trying to appear calm and self-assured, I surveyed the swarm of younger faces around me. I made my way to the fourth floor classroom for my first “publishing your writing” class. Arriving early, I tentatively chose a seat and waited for my professor and classmates to trickle in. Fully expecting to be one of the oldest students in the class, I was surprised when 10 of my 13 classmates were older than me. As we introduced ourselves, I was awed to be surrounded by people from all walks of life: retired teachers and businessmen with multiple degrees, an English professor, a general physician, a master gardener, and an avid outdoorsman were among them. Flooded with self-doubt, I wondered if I belonged in the midst of such seasoned professionals and considered dropping the class as soon as I got home.

But as each person explained their background and shared their writing goals, I realized this was a community I wanted to belong to. Every person had a valid and important story to tell, and I realized that my own experiences were just as legitimate as theirs. Intrigued by the varied texture of our group, I came to anticipate our stimulating discussions each week.

Over time, we have become a cohesive group of writers. I have also developed a particular friendship with one of the older women in my class, a former English teacher and gifted poet. Although there are at least 20 years between us, a feeling of camaraderie and mutual respect has developed. Both of us took this course for self-enrichment and I am grateful to have benefited from her mentoring and personal attention. When I was a younger college student, I rarely experienced this type of peer chemistry among competitive fellow students who were constantly jockeying for position. In this class, however, we support and encourage one another in our writing endeavors.

I’ll never forget the day I had to read my own writing in front of the class. I was absolutely petrified. The room was deathly silent as I tried not to stumble through the reading. When I finished, I hardly dared to look up. My neck was flushed with embarrassment, but when I glanced around the room, my peers were smiling compassionately. Many of them mentioned the strengths they observed in my writing and several pulled me aside later to give me encouraging words of advice.

Now with only three weeks left in the course, I am truly reluctant to see the semester come to an end. Although our circumstances vary widely, my classmates and I are like a chorus of individual voices singing in harmony about the human experience. As my voice resonates with theirs, I celebrate community and rejoice in its ability to cultivate and nurture the human spirit. Rubbing shoulders with these 13 remarkable people has given me a sense of belonging and the belief that even a reserved stay-at-home mom like me can make a meaningful contribution in the college classroom.


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