I’ll admit, the week leading up to the Community College Transfer Symposium was a tough one. I had just recently moved to the Los Angeles area and had just finally started to feel settled into a place I could call home. After all, I moved to the city with the full support of my family and friends, and although leaving my smaller city behind me was hard, it was something that I had always wanted to explore.
It was my second week at a new school, and second month of living with roommates. Even though I was living in LA and pursuing my dream of working in the LGBTQ atmosphere, I felt lonely and eventually started feeling physically ill. The week was so emotionally draining that I called my mom and cried on the phone, asking if I should just call Jill or Jonathan and tell them I was too sick to attend. I’ve always been a sensitive kid but being “alone” in a big city where I knew hardly anyone was more of a challenge than I originally anticipated.
But I decided to stick it out. After all, I felt I owed it to Point Foundation to show up and give them a weekend of my time since they were helping fund my college education. So on Friday, September 8th, I took a Lyft and ended up at the Hilton Checkers in Los Angles. I walked into the lobby to see Point staff members Ted, Johnathan, Jill, and Emma all smiling and ready to welcome me. I immediately felt at ease. First up was professional headshots, and I have to admit, I love pictures, so putting on my suit and heels made the whole experience more official and important!
After getting ready I headed to the photoshoot and had a first glance at my fellow scholars. All I could think was, WOW. The first thing I thought was that they were all so beautiful. We spent time sharing stories of college classes, clubs, and events, and I began to feel more involved and ready for the weekend I had ahead of me.
Later on, we met staff, former Point Scholars, and were able to introduce ourselves formally to the group. We were instructed to break into smaller groups and design posters of our own ideal utopias. We then presented them, and it was really interesting to see how much we all had in common, but also how different each group was.
We went to dinner at Grand Central Market and I sat with my follow scholarship recipients. We laughed, talked, and filled each other in on our lives, and I soon felt as if I had known all of them my whole life. Even in the first night, I knew we were all vastly different, but our queerness brought us together, and even that one commonality was enough to unite us.
The next morning began our day of learning about transferring, writing personal essays, and what it means to be LGBTQ in university and higher education. I was nervous about the schedule of the first day because I have always been stressed out when it comes to talking about school and grades. Despite this, all the speakers gave interesting, non-stressful presentations, and I learned a lot about transferring that I wouldn’t have known (or figured out) by myself.
My favorite workshop of the day was the personal statement workshop. I have always enjoyed writing. They say to write what you know, and there is nothing in the world I know better than myself and my perspective on my life. The speaker who presented how to write personal statements was Mamie, and I was lucky enough to have her as my small group leader as well. One thing I really enjoyed about her was her ability to listen and be excited about each student’s writing. I really felt like she cared about what I wrote and it made me feel like I could share my writing more openly.
Even though the day seemed long, we learned a lot and by the end I was excited to talk with my peers and share ideas. Later on, we met with more Point family, alumni, presenters, and employees for dinner. Although my assigned seat was at the end of the table, only surrounded by two other people who were also community college recipients, we still talked the entire dinner, ate delicious food, and I occasionally yelled down the table to talk to Ted. Later that night, a group of us underage kids rode the metro to Santa Monica Pier and had the best time laughing and taking pictures. Since I live in LA, I got to act as a sort of tour guide, which was also really fun!
Our second day was a bit more relaxed, but still very organized. I really enjoyed the mindfulness exercise we did, and since that day I have tried to take more deep breaths and live more in the moment.
When we wrapped up, we said our good-byes to Jonathan, Ted, Emma, and Jill, as well as our new Point family we had met throughout the weekend.
I then sat in the lobby with a group of my co-scholarship buddies, ate lunch, and waited till they headed to the airport for their flights home. I could have left at any time, but spending that extra hour with them really made the event seem like it had officially brought us all together. We now have a “community college group chat” on WhatsApp, where we all engage with each other every day, and give the group updates on school, friendships, and life in general. I initially was thankful to receive the Point scholarship, but after that weekend, I am especially grateful to have friends from all over the country cheering me on. Thank you Point for this life changing experience!
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This post was written by Community College Scholarship Recipient McKenna Palmer.
McKenna is studying Gender Studies at Santa Monica College in California. Inspired by her work in LGBTQ nonprofits and engaging with the community online, McKenna plans to use her platform to be a voice of empowerment for LGBTQ youth and minorities. Read more about McKenna and other Community College Scholarship Recipients here.