Everyone has their own way of making their story, today I want to tell you mine! The question is where to start. I was a traditional student going to public school, a cheerleader for my school and generally speaking, a straight-A student. When my Junior year rolled around, I made a huge decision that drastically changed my life. I decided not to try out for the Cheer team again and instead I enrolled at the East Valley Institute of Technology, or as many of you might know it as, EVIT. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is a public school that focuses on career and technical education. I enrolled in the Multimedia program, which was a two-year program. I would go to my home high school, Corona del Sol, in the morning for classes such as Math, English, etc. and in the afternoon I would spend 3 hours at EVIT in the multimedia class.
I still had my friends at Corona, but now I was able to make so many new friends at EVIT! It was so amazing being in a classroom filled with others my age who had an interest and a passion for the same thing as me. I became very involved at EVIT, I was the class president, a representative for EVIT Community Council, and I even started volunteering after school. By getting involved I was able to expand my reach to new people and new opportunities. One of the best parts about deciding to go to EVIT was that I was gaining college credits like crazy! Y’all, between dual enrollment at both my home high school and EVIT, I graduated high school with 18 credit hours!
By the time the Spring Semester started I knew without a doubt I was going to go to school to be a photographer! But the great question was… which school? At this moment, I had so much freedom I didn’t know what to do with it! This was such a defining moment in my life, this decision would drastically change and shape my life. I could move anywhere I want, study anything I want, and become whoever I wanted! I decided to apply and was accepted to three schools: Arizona State University, University of New Mexico, and Montana State University. I’m sure that seems random to you all reading this, but I can explain! Obviously, ASU because it’s close, in-state tuition and my mom works for ASU so there would be a tuition waiver, heck yes! UNM because I’m from New Mexico and I love my roots! Lastly, Montana State, because, well, simply put… cowboys, hello! …clearly, I had my priorities straight!!
Well as it turns out, UNM didn’t have a great art program, Montana is cold, and ASU had nothing but pros! So, I officially accepted ASU’s offer and enrolled as a student for the Fall Semester of 2015!
Now I was counting down the days before Graduation, and simultaneously my 18th birthday because they happened to be on the same day. I walked across the stage at both Corona’s graduation as well as EVIT’s completion ceremony and I was officially a high school grad!!! (and officially an adult)! (Check out my cringy senior photos!)
I spent most of my summer packing up and getting ready to move into my new dorm! New bedding: check. New laptop: check. New mini fridge: check. I was ready! When August came around I locked up my room, said good-bye to my parents (as if they didn’t live 20 mins away), and headed to ASU! Y’all I was finally a grown up, a big shot in college, a real adult living on my own! It was time to go to class.
I started ASU as a Photography major in the Herberger School of Fine Arts… that only lasted one semester. You guys… this was not at all what I thought it would be. I loved one class, which was my darkroom photography class. This major was all about how to get your work in a museum; no offense to anyone who has that goal, but that’s not mine. I suffered through an Art History class, which consisted of a giant lecture hall with 100+ students and one professor who spoke broken English and gave 3 pass or fail exams that were out of the textbook (and I hate hate hate reading). I struggled through a drawing class where the TA hated me because she told me I didn’t need to know how to draw to pass the class; then she would grade me on how well I drew (which, let me tell you, was not well).
I don’t tell you this to scare you and I don’t mean to throw any shade at ASU or the Herberger School; it just wasn’t for me. I talked to my advisor at ASU and decided to switch my major to Graphic Information Technology (GIT). It was at the Poly campus, so I packed up all my stuff and moved into the Freshmen dorms at ASU Poly. Because I moved over halfway through the year, they stuck me in what dorm they had left, I was a GIT major on a floor of Aviation majors! I met some cool people though.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this new major. It was exactly what I needed. It taught the design basics but it was geared more towards freelance or agency work and producing creative work that will make money. YES! The structure of this major consisted of a main focus area, which I declared as Commercial Photography, as well as a sub-focus area, which I designed my own with my advisor and we called it Business Entrepreneurship. I was doing everything that I loved and I was learning it all in a way that set me up for success in running my own business.
While at ASU I made many friends in classes and I also joined the Poly Photo Club. I was completely submerged in what I loved, which made it easy to make friends with others who had the same passion. I still hang out with many of the amazing people I met at ASU.
After just 2.5 short years at ASU, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. Wait, hold up, did you say 2.5 years? And you switched your major? Yes! I did that! I’m not going to lie, it was a LOT of work! I was cramming 18 credit hours into one semester (I even did one semester of 21 credit hours – I would not recommend that), I was taking summer school, and winter crash courses. I did all this while still having a social life, running my business, and working part-time! It was so worth it though! All I wanted to do was graduate so I could start running my business full time!
And look at me now!! You guys, no matter what path you take, as long as you have ambition, focus, and drive, you can achieve anything you want! Here is some advice for you as you finish up your senior year and prepare for the next part of your life:
High school isn’t the end
As much as I love to say my glory days are being a cheerleader in high school, let’s be honest, I love being an independent adult! It’s a lot of responsibility and it gets hard sometimes, but I wouldn’t go back! And I’m so excited to go forward. There is always something to look forward to and while being excited about the future is great, it’s also so good to just be present! Enjoy where you are in life. I barely remember college because it went by so fast, but I’ll tell you at the moment it felt like it was never going to end! Savor each moment and commit it to memory because before you know it, you’ll have moved on to bigger and better!
You don’t have to have it figured out
Y’all, you don’t have to have it all figured out at 17 or 18 years old! I know it feels like that because you are making such big decisions that will affect the rest of your life, but relax, take a breath because you can always figure it out as you go. I never thought I’d change my major in college, but I did! And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made! If you don’t know what you want, try everything! I’m a big believer in “you don’t know what you don’t know you don’t know”… basically, it’s hard to know you are passionate about something that you aren’t even aware exists. Get out of your comfort zone and be open to opportunity and you never know where life will take you!
Making New Friends
One of the hardest parts of graduating and heading to college was the fact that most of my friends either went out of state or to NAU/U of A and I was faced with the task of making all new friends. As scary as that sounds, it’s not that hard and these are the friendships that last a lifetime and that you make most of your memories with. My parents to this day still tell stories about their college friends and I’ve met most of them. That says a lot!
One of the easiest ways to meet new people and to pass the time is to get involved. It pushes you outside of your boundaries which is where real growth happens. It also allows you to make friendships and have experiences you otherwise wouldn’t have had. Whether it’s a club, volunteering, or even being a TA, I highly recommend!
I always thought college and your 20s was about finding yourself, well I’m learning that it’s not about ‘finding’ yourself, it’s about ‘creating’ yourself! You are unique and you have the freedom to be whoever you want to be! We are influenced by our experiences and we are shaped by our growth, but neither defines us. You are not defined by your major or your job. I encourage you to learn more about yourself and begin creating yourself. Some of my favorite ways to do that are to read books, have meaning full conversations with those around me and find meaning and purpose in all that I do.
Goals, determination, and drive
You guys, I can’t stress this enough! If you have clear goals and set your mind to something, you can get there. I didn’t say it would be easy, but I guarantee you it will be worth it. You are amazing and you can do amazing things. Just remember, once you graduate and turn 18, no one telling you what to do, you have to want it. There will always be people supporting you, but it’s ultimately your goal that you decide to achieve it yourself.