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Fighting the good fight.

It was 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. I sat in the front row of English class with a look of panic on my face, and a black hole of despair in my stomach. I knew that I was in a dire situation with little hope in sight, and I felt like Don Quixote chasing an impossible dream that I should never have started in the first place.

I'm what Harrisburg Area Community College considers a non-traditional student. When I was 20, I was financially forced to drop out of college. Recently at 42, I had returned to college to complete my degree, all the while wondering if I could still do this at my age. However, I still believed that with hard work any thing can be accomplished.

So there I sat in English class feeling hopeless. It was only the night before when I realized that most of my painstakingly gathered research for a formal analytical report was more fluff than substance. Our final project was due a week from Thursday, and instead of writing the report, I needed to start over from square one. As I listened to Professor Iva Balic explain all of the requirements for the project, I sank into a grave-like pit where each additional requirement seemed to be another rock piled on top of me. I didn't have enough time to restart the research let alone do everything else. Why had I thought that at 42 I could go back to college? I was about to be a complete failure, and I thought, "I might as well let go of the stress and not bother with the paper at all."

Noticing the look on my face as I was leaving class, Professor Balie stopped me and asked what was wrong. Frustrated and defeated, tears welled in my eyes as I explained my predicament. She immediately began encouraging me with a list of reasons why this project was still doable, but to no avail. In self preservation, my overwhelmed mind was giving up and shutting down. Seeing that I wasn't convinced, she squared her shoulders, fiercely looked me in the eye and said, "I will not let you fail!"

A small glimmer of hope appeared in the darkness. Her willingness to fight for me when I was too overwhelmed to fight for myself convinced me to try again. If she could believe in me that strongly, perhaps I could believe in myself as well. After I put in several very late nights, she scheduled an office appointment to give me her feedback. I earned a 96 on that paper and an A in the class, proving to me that I was not too old for college. Professor Balic displayed the mark of a true teacher that day when she was willing to fight the good fight to help her student succeed, and in doing so, she gave me the infinitely precious gift of believing in myself once more.

Christina Anthony, a student at HACC (formerly Harrisburg Area Community College, Pa.) wrote the winning essay for the Community College Week-NISOD Student Essay Contest. Anthony's essay describes a rewarding learning experience as a student in Iva Balic's English class. Balic is an assistant professor of English.
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Title Annotation:student voice
Author:Anthony, Christina
Publication:Community College Week
Date:May 16, 2011
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