"How Morton College is Changing My Life"

Alexander Gonzalez, Morton College
2021 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner

College seemed out of reach to me. I am guilty of excusing myself for 14 years from education because "life just got in the way." I am a 31-year-old Mexican man with no college experience, and I am a single homeowner working more than full time to afford my condo. Last year I made the decision to go back to school, and Morton College is supporting me. Every week that goes by my life is changing because of my community college's opportunities, flexibility, and affordability.

My community college is flexible. Living on my own means I cannot compromise work for school. Morton College offers evening classes that have allowed me to manage work and school. Professors and staff have met with me some late evenings to work around my schedule. My counselor, Mrs. Johnson, held a nearly two-hour-long Zoom conference with me one evening; she answered my questions and helped me plan my academic career beyond Morton College. Their ability to work around my schedule has been helping me break my habit of making excuses not to go to school. Another thing I'm guilty of is telling myself how expensive school can be.

My community college is affordable. It is known that universities are at least three times more expensive than community colleges.

Morton only charges in-district students $104 per credit hour! I do not qualify for financial aid because of my full-time job, and I want to only apply for a student loan as a last resort. Morton College has a flexible payment plan that helps soften the impact of tuition by allowing me to break up payments over the course of the semester. If it weren't for the payment plan, I would have convinced myself I couldn't afford to go back to school. Time and money no longer being an issue, I still told myself that I was too old, and that my high school GPA was too low to be accepted to college.

My community college has given me opportunity. Regardless of my age or my high school grades, I am given the same chance at education as anyone else. My community college offers pre-college classes so students can catch up and have the knowledge to complete their college degree. I was honored to be nominated by Morton College to join the National Society of Leadership and Success, and now I have access to job resources and letters of recommendation. I've been given the chance to excel in my career and in school, thanks to my community college.

I'm all out of excuses, and I'm better for it. I am very happy with the direction I am going. Although community colleges may be underrated and their students underestimated, I am so fortunate they exist -- because Morton College, its staff, and its teachers are changing my life.