EvCC graduate Jasmine Chigbrow speaks at Western Washington University's March 2017 commencement.
How did you get involved with Everett Community College's Youth Re-Engagement (U3) program, which gives students the opportunity to earn a high school dipoloma and college credit for free?
Around the age of 13, I started struggling in school. I felt like I didn’t fit in, and I was battling with severe anxiety and depression. I had no motivation to attend my classes or do my work. Eventually I stopped going to school completely. I tried online courses for a while, but I didn’t have the self-discipline to keep up with those either. I had given up on ever getting my diploma and was at a really low point in my life. Fortunately, my best friend’s mom (Pam Desmond) worked at EvCC and knew about the U3 program. She felt like it would be a great fit, so she encouraged me to apply. If it hadn’t been for Mrs. Desmond and her enthusiastic recommendation, I would have never known about U3 and I probably would have given up on my education entirely.
How did U3 help you?
When I got accepted into U3, I knew that I had been given a second chance at an education. There are a lot of kids out there who are in the position I was in, and they don’t usually get the option to come back from their low points. I did, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity I was given. I don’t come from a wealthy background, and no one in my immediate family had ever gone to college. And there was U3, not only offering to cover tuition, fees, and textbooks, but also providing moral support and guidance to help me earn college and high school credits. Without them, I honestly don’t think I ever would have gone to college. U3 is such a fantastic program because it extends a helping hand to the kids who need it most.
You went from a 1.5 GPA in high school to earning your high school diploma and an associate degree at EvCC with a 4.0 GPA. How did you do it?
It definitely was not easy! I came to EvCC as an anxious sixteen year old, too scared to drive, too scared to believe in myself because in the past even when I wanted to do well I ended up disappointing myself. But in that first quarter of U3, things started changing. I did well on my first few assignments, and I realized I liked doing well! Sadly, it was a new feeling for me. I hadn’t done anything to be proud of in so long, I forgot what it felt like. I started making small goals for myself, like ‘I won’t miss class at all this week’ or ‘I will do all my homework tonight,’ which might seem so simple to some, but it was huge for me. Every time I got a good grade or received positive feedback, it refueled my desire to do even better and try even harder. By the end of that first quarter, I had new friends, I had gotten my driver’s license, and I had straight A’s. It was a turning point in my life, a complete metamorphosis. After that, I continued to set higher and higher goals. As I took more courses, I realized I loved it! I worked really hard, and most nights I did hours of homework. But I had discovered a new passion for learning, and with the help of U3 I gained confidence, perseverance and dedication to continue achieving my goals, one quarter at a time.
Who has helped you succeed at EvCC (faculty member, staff)? What did that person do to help you?
Throughout my three years at EvCC, I was impacted by so many incredible people. John Stewart, Remy Leonard, and Tom Davis of the Criminal Justice department particularly left an impression on me. They showed me how complex and interesting that field of work is. When I first started U3, I had ZERO idea of what I wanted to study, so it was lucky that I took CJ courses early on and got sucked in. These professors shaped the rest of my college career, and my professional career as well. Most of all though, I owe a million thanks to the U3 team, in particular my case manager Rebecca Hungerford. Rebecca was there from day one, always providing positive encouragement and helpful advice. The whole college experience was so new to me, and kind of terrifying, but she explained it all and helped me realize that this was something I could actually do. She made sure I didn’t fall back into bad habits, and she monitored my progress. Coming in as a high school dropout, I needed someone to keep me on my toes and provide structure. She’s the best ever, and I’m so thankful for her support, not only when I was in U3, but her continued support even after graduating from the program.
What advice do you have for new EvCC U3 students?
My advice would be to give yourself a chance! I had such negative doubts in myself when I began U3. You start to think certain things are impossible. They’re not! I’m proof. Anyone can change their life around, and programs like U3 are the first step. Regardless of whatever has made education difficult for you in the past, U3 is a fresh start. Take this opportunity for what it is, and put everything you’ve got into it. Start small though, make those little goals for yourself. When you start to achieve those, aim a little bigger. And, this is very important, trust your case manager! They are your back bone through this whole journey. Go to them for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. They are there to get you through it!
What happened after you graduated from EvCC?
After graduating from EvCC, I was accepted to Western Washington University. Since I had gotten my associate degree - DTA (direct transfer agreement), I was able to transfer in as a junior. I worked really hard, and continued setting high standards for myself. After two years at WWU, I graduated magna cum laude in winter 2017 with my Bachelor’s in Sociology. To my surprise, I was nominated by some of my professors to be the student speaker at graduation. As grateful as I was, I was so scared! I had never done any public speaking, and commencement is a huge event. On the big day, standing at the podium in my cap and gown and looking out at a sea of faces, I reflected over how far I had come and couldn’t believe it. It was absolutely one of the proudest moments of my life, and it all started six years ago with an application to U3.
What do you plan to do next?
My next step is law school. I’m currently interning at a law office and studying for the LSAT. My goal is to get accepted into University of Washington’s School of Law to study criminal law, with the intent of becoming a prosecuting attorney. I remain fascinated by the criminal justice system, and I’m so excited for this next step in my life!