Low-Income Students Feel Graduation Blues

Alisha Agard

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Opinion_Cooper-Ellis_Graduation_12

Illustration by Sophie Cooper Ellis.

Graduation is coming just around the corner, and the senior friends I’ve watched write theses and study for oral exams will be walking across the stage and bidding farewell to the place they’ve studied for the last four years. All of the late nights, early mornings, stress and hard work will be worth it when each graduate walks away with a degree in hand. The smiles and tears of happiness from family members and friends will fill the atmosphere with happiness and positivity for most, but not all, on May 25.

I was talking to a friend who recently turned in his thesis, and I mentioned that I cannot wait to meet his family and celebrate his success with them. The reply I received was something I never had taken into consideration. He told me his family wasn’t going to come to commencement because they cannot afford the flight from his hometown to Walla Walla. It hurt to hear that my good friend, who had to overcome many trials and tribulations to make it this far in his education, is not able to celebrate his success like everyone else f0r financial reasons. Being the person I am, I was not going to move on knowing my friend would be alone on graduation day. I wondered if there was any sort of fund available to help bring low-income families to Walla Walla. I don’t really know where to start searching for one or if it even exists for events like commencement, but if not, there should be.

My friend is just one of the many students on campus whose parents may not be able to watch their child graduate from college, and that’s concerning. Many of the low-income students on campus are the first people in their families to graduate from college, and that itself is an accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated on the day of commencement. Many low-income students could’ve been just another statistic but have beat the odds and managed to get their degree despite their financial status. These students deserve to have their families by their side to share in their greatness and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

I have friends whose families have never been to campus and who sent their student to Whitman without even touring first because they couldn’t afford the commute from their home town or country to Walla Walla. They simply trusted their child’s decision and hoped for the best. It would be nice for people whose families are coming from far away to see the beauty of Whitman, and financial ability should not get in the way.

Being a first-generation and working class college student, I know that my motivation for finishing school is to see the smiles on my parents’ faces on commencement day. My motivation is hearing my parents tell me in their thick West Indian accents how proud they are of me to be the first in my family to graduate. I am fortunate enough to have parents who can afford to come to Walla Walla when my time to graduate comes, but there are people who are less fortunate, and they deserve to see the smiles on their family members’ faces on commencement day.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email