Morgan 1

Empowered by Education | Joy Morgan’s Senior Goodbye

Today, I am a senior at Monmouth University.

On May 9, I will be gone from here.

For many years of my life I adapted to the culture of the educational system; competitive, intimidating, comfortable, and a privilege.

These last few weeks of my career here are quite similar to the last few I spent at a tiny high school in the woods, an hour south, a world away.

Like now, I was doing a lot. “Too much,” many of my peers would say. I came to Monmouth University because a friend set up the interview for a scholarship that would change my life.

I was fortunate that life had opened this door for me, and blessed that I had made the decision to walk in.

Little did I know, my experience at Monmouth would completely transform my person.

I started at Monmouth enrolled in a five-week academic boot camp.

Each hour of the day was planned by the providers of my scholarship. It is important to note, I was not a recipient for academic or athletic excellence, but instead perseverance and resilience.

I was not your stereotypical teen in a middle-class nuclear family. Actually, I was alone. Afraid. No one to instruct me on the next steps, and if anyone tried, why should I believe them?

See, before I came to Monmouth, I fended for myself most days. I never learned to properly tie my shoes, or organize a binder. While it seems like these are quite basic concepts, when survival is your primary concern, and optimism your most valued goal, asking for help in the little areas of life was not only foolish, but dangerous…plus what was actually important anyway?

Life is not easy. It never has been. For many years I looked at my peers with jealousy, and resentment. Families supporting their endeavors, driving them to practice, buying their lunch, taking them to their friend’s house. Why not me? Why am I so bad? Why can I never do anything right? Why must I be so alone? I thought and fought those feelings. I worked hard. I stayed busy…. I still do.

Morgan 2The purpose of this note, for me, is not to dwell on the hardships of my past. It is to speak to you all today of what I consider to be a miraculous triumph against the odds.

I was poor and my single mother struggled to maintain our home and smile at times it may have been needed, let alone the many other trials I prefer not to mention.

Do I resent her? No. She has given me my life. There is a blessing every where I look. God bless my hard working mother.

I often think that the hardships of my past are accountable for my success here today at Monmouth.

When I began here I could see the wealth sparkle on the accessories of my well polished, and unchallenged peers.

It scared me.

In the beginning I did not understand why I did not fit in. Was it because they had not faced similar hardships? Because we were raised differently? Because I could not afford to eat with them?

It was not until my senior year that I FINALLY came to realize, we are all the same and everybody struggles equally, just differently.

However, not everyone handles adversity the same. Persistence and optimism have been my incredible gift from above.

Here is where my first ‘thank you’ begins…. Thank you to everyone in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program. I got a shot at a life I would have never been exposed to. EOF gave me hope that I could one day care for my family, after all that we had struggled.

If I could raise a fraction of the funds many of my peers seemingly were born into, imagine the relief to be had by freedom of worry and sadness, my family will feel. It may be wrong to assume that money can buy happiness, but when you see the destruction, embarrassment, and hurt that can accompany the lower class you ma     y understand.

Morgan 3Truthfully, I felt quite happy going to AA meetings, riding the NJ transit as a tot carrying arm loads of groceries from the local pantry, playing outside with dirt when my neighbors got gaming systems and new clothes.

I could cry of gratitude r eflecting on these past few years. I am overwhelmingly grateful for EOF and Monmouth for housing me, instructing me, leading  me, and supporting me. I could have never left my home town, and stayed amongst the depressive repression of my drug addicted, lower class community.

I am overpoweringly appreciative to my friends that took so long to find, and will remain so long in my life, for showing me love, equality, safety, and trust- all of these things bonds I was concerned were only for other people.

Here at Monmouth I have transformed from a lonely, guilty, sad, broke, girl, to an intelligent, empowered, passionate, and caring woman.

That is the power of education. Education IS A PRIVILLEGE.

It is my duty to take what I have learned here to make the world a better place for all to live in, because my world has been unceasingly better for it.

Shout out to all of the members of Youth Activists, from beginning to the future, who share my passion and devotion to social and environmental justice. Further, thank you to the Justice League, a group of people who confirm my current belief that stereotypes, economics, race, gender, class, and all social dividers are weak constructs against the  power of love and truth.

Thank you to The Outlook for giving me a place to voice my truths, for the editors, and staff who dedicate themselves to honesty and impartiality. To my friends I have made here who have helped me grow and find my voice, through constructive criticism and patience. This has been one of my most favorite experiences at Monmouth.

Beyond the students, I have had many mentors here at Monmouth that have transformed me into who I am today, reassuring me that when life gets tough, so do I. Thank you to Frank Cipriani, Scott Jeffrey, Tom Herrington, Dickie Cox, John Morano, Ryan Tetro, Janet Dustman, Amy Belina, Kathy Dabney, Mary Harris, Lorna Shmidt, Aaron Furgason, Liz O’Brien, Cheryl Guther, Linessa Williams, Chris McKittrick, Grey Dimmena, Rob Hennesey, Tiffany Medley, Michael Thomas, Joe Rapolla, Shannon Hokanson, and many other professors, staff, and chair’s who have been genuinely supportive, honest, and caring while guiding me along my journey.

Morgan 4My focus in my studies has ranged from undeclared, psychology, molecular biology, music industry, communications: radio & television, to journalism and public relations, until I finally realized… it’s not the subject matter itself that I am here to understand, as much as it is the ability to learn and apply cumulated information into an action that can improve and advance existing systems in society.

I give my word to current students, friends, family, instructors, and peers, that I will never give up.

I will persist through challenges, and do so with as much love and honesty as I can.

It is my hope to inspire those around me to be true and loving to themselves and their surrounding community, and to use our  privilege of education to share these morals and lessons in my future work places.

As I said before, life is hard. For some, so so so unimaginably hard. We at Monmouth have all been gifted the opportunity to find creative solutions to the problems the people of the world face today. How are you going to use that gift?

If you were to ask me, I would simply say… “forever.”