When we think about college students, we often think about the wet behind the ears, straight out of high school, stars in their eyes, young go-getters. Across from me sits a college student different than that. Alice Launder is in her mid-thirties and like me, finds it hard to relate to the other younger students chatting loudly around us. Alice has taken the long way to college which sometimes happens when life turns out much differently than one anticipates. As she answers my questions, I can see the exhaustion in her smile, but I am taken off guard by the quiet determination in her voice.
Alice grew up a “Military kid” and moved several times before the age of eight; the family eventually made Minot, ND their home. Alice’s parents both worked in shifts to ensure their children would often have the care of a parent at home. At the age of twenty-one, Alice married and became a mother to a boy and then a girl. Her son was born with a disability and has always depended more on Alice than other children his age and probably always will. When her marriage fell apart, Alice became a single mom working dead-end jobs to make ends meet and create a new place in the world for her and her children.
Unlike most other students Alice has already experienced the work-force and the joys of being a mother. She has experienced the pain of divorce and has learned to stand on her own two feet. She has overcome things that the average college student has not. Now she wants to be able to support herself and her children to the best of her ability, and this requires her to find a stable career that will allow her to financially support her family as well as providing her the flexibility to care for her domestic responsibilities. I watch Alice as she explains her situation with a sense of hope in her voice and I am taken off-guard by her willingness to take on whatever stands in her way.
Alice wants to be a writer, a career that can fulfill the unique needs of her situation. She is in her senior year, just inches away from graduation, and now financial difficulties may keep her from the finish line. Going it alone can often be hard and sometimes can break a person down.
Alice has the ability and the drive, and it is heartbreaking to watch her fear of not reaching her goal. I see in her the pride over her successes and the lessons that have brought her this far. I am confident she will find a way. Though I hardly know Alice, I don’t ever see her giving up so quickly. Going it alone is scary and challenging but the successes it can bring and the lessons it teaches are priceless, and Alice is a woman I am proud to have been able to get to know. She is not your average college student, and that is not a bad thing!