Hey OCCC, thanks for everything.

I attended my first class at Oklahoma City Community College in the fall of 2014. I had just turned 17 and was a concurrently enrolled high school student.

I nervously walked into the main building after my mom dropped me off, brand new to the “college world.” I didn’t have a driver’s license or a car of my own, so I relied on rides from my mom and older sister to get to the college.

I heard that many students weren’t interested in sticking around after class because it was a commuter college, so I worried that I wouldn’t find a group of pals at OCCC. My worries were quickly proved wrong.

My first class of the day was with Prof. Ray McCullar, learning about American history after the Civil War. I sat down at a round table with a few other smiling faces, and made friends so quickly it was almost cinematic.

My subsequent classes at OCCC continued like this, and I felt like I was wanted and valued in a school that I had few expectations from.

Nearly all of my professors, advisors, and administrators showed the same standard of caring; Each were warm and eager to become involved with their students. OCCC was the perfect size and pace for me to form solid relationships with my professors and administrators, and I never had to fight for their time or understanding.

After earning over 40 credits through concurrent enrollment, high school graduation quickly approached and I was left with a decision: Transfer to a four year university or finish my associate at the college I knew so well?

I decided to linger, and was able to complete an associate degree in Broadcast Journalism a year after graduating high school.

During that time, I was given the opportunity to work as editor at the student newspaper, The Pioneer. My newspaper team covered dozens of local events and elections, wrote in-depth stories, and practiced and showcased our work next to professional journalists.

Our online website gained record views and hits, and our stories won numerous awards at the Oklahoma Collegiate Media Association competition, the Society of Professional Journalists contest, and more.

Without the help of my advisors and mentors, including Jorge Krzyzaniak, Scott Carter, and Gwin and Rick Lippert, I wouldn’t have been able to practice the craft of journalism and broadcasting at the level I was granted.

Studying journalism forced me out of my comfort zone, and made that “up in the air” feeling more familiar for me. I had to learn how to ask tough questions, I had to go out of my way to hunt down sources. I had to talk to and meet people I never would have met before.

There were numerous times that I’d walk out of an event or an interview full of joy, feeling like I was a part of something bigger and stronger than myself. On more than one occasion, I left the Oklahoma capitol with a beaming smile on my face. I understood that the Pioneer had given me the opportunity to dive into my field before I was even 20 years old, and I was overcome with gratitude.

OCCC exposed me to every kind of person. I had classmates and coworkers of all ages, races, sexualities and abilities. Clubs and student organizations were able to flourish through the efforts of Erin Logan, the director of Student Life, and there seemed to be a place for everyone.

I feel foolish for ever worrying that I wouldn’t find a community within OCCC. Now I can walk through the halls and say hello to a familiar face from each department. I know that the memories, friends and tools I have gained at this school will stick with me for years.

I will miss Oklahoma City Community College dearly, and I’ll always be ready to vouch and advocate for the quality of this college.

Thank you OCCC.

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