Update: Videos from the event are available here.
Marcellina DesChamps first set foot in a classroom when she was 27 years old.
Growing up, her father owned a small business. The kids helped out when times got tough and by the time she turned 14, she worked 40 hours a week. Now 32, DesChamps studies political science and law, societies and justice at the University of Washington, where her classmates — and some of her tutors — are a decade younger than her. Along the way, she has learned how to actively read, how to study, to take notes, to use the library and how to ask for help.
“I’m learning how to learn,” said DesChamps, who earned her GED and studied at North Seattle College before arriving at UW.
On Saturday, DesChamps was one of five local college students who shared their stories before a crowd of high school and college students at “How I Got Into College,” a storytelling event presented by Education Lab and the University of Washington Dream Project.
Most of the speakers, several of whom are first-generation students, emphasized persistence and finding good mentors and role models on the path to college. They said despite higher education’s costs, paying for college is the best debt you can have.
During a live poll at the event, roughly half the participants cited grades and test scores as their biggest barrier to college. Cost was a close second. When asked what students could do to improve their application if they don’t have stellar test scores, speakers said they should explain their grades in a personal essay and emphasize other strengths.
Show the admissions officers that you’re more than a test score, they said.
The other storytellers also reflected on their personal experiences. For Teena Thach, a senior at Western Washington University, college means learning about herself and who she wants to become. Daisy Morado-Sanchez said her role models inspire her to keep reaching for her dream to become a doctor. Find what you’re good at and passionate about and do it, said David Alvarez, a junior transfer student at UW.
This spring, DesChamps will graduate from UW with a degree in law, societies and justice and political science.
“I’m still scared to death, but I have growing confidence in my success,” DesChamps said. “I will remind myself that what once seemed impossible is now within reach.”