Last Gasp to Freedom

By Derick Abbey:

Many seniors at The College at Brockport are excited to graduate, such as Deon Johnson.

After a seemingly never-ending Western New York winter, students on the campus of the College at Brockport are starting to stir. As the weeks progress a large part of the campus is growing restless. However, it is not the freshmen clawing their way to their first college summer.

It is the senior class fighting to stay focused and calm as their collegiate journey comes to an end.

“I had heard professors talk about senioritis but now that I’m so close to graduation I really understand it,” Deon Johnson said. Like many seniors at SUNY Brockport Johnson is counting the days until he finally walks across the stage to accept his college diploma. But for Johnson it has taken an extra year to reach the finish line.

Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Johnson looks to become the first member of his family to graduate, a feat he is extremely proud of.

“My family keeps telling me how proud they are of me, and I love making them proud but honestly, it has been such a long journey for me,” Johnson said. “I may be graduating in five years but because structured school doesn’t come easy for me it has been stressful. I’m just looking forward to being able to start my life after college and look for a job in my field.”

Johnson came to Brockport from Monroe Community College where he earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice. At Brockport he will graduate with a degree in communication, a program he enrolled in to help overcome his fear of public speaking and interacting with others

on a professional scale. His ultimate goal is to follow a career in law enforcement and improve the negitive image police officers have in the urban community.

“Growing up in Rochester I saw a lot of great police officers but also some bad ones,” Johnson said. “I just want to be one of the good ones.”

Johnson fought for four years working full time as a city security guard, while registered as a full-time student. In the end, he is used the balancing act as a learning experience to better himself.

“I had to work 35 to 45 hours every week during school so it has been hard to balance life,” Johnson said. “It is going to be an adjustment, but I am excited to have the opportunity to adjust.”

While Johnson’s journey comes to an end he has become reflective on his time in school and looks forward to the life he hopes to start, all while remembering what brought him to this point.

“I’m honestly just excited to graduate. I wasn’t the best student in high school or college, so being able to make it to the end has me excited,” Johnson said. “I also only had to take two classes in my final semester in order to graduate, so I was able to start working more and basically prepare for non-school life. I am going to miss school, but I am so excited for what’s next.”

For many students, college graduation marks the end of many students’ academic careers, but a select few choose to move on and continue their education. Catherine Mattis is one.

“I really knew in high school that I wasn’t going to stop with my undergraduate degree, I knew I would at least be going for my masters,” Mattis said.

Mattis, a senior journalism and broadcasting major, with a more traditional college journey. Set to graduate after four years in college, Mattis is preparing for a transition she knows all too well.

“It’s going to be weird. I know I am graduating college, but if I get accepted to the graduate schools I want, I’ll only get a few weeks off before I start school again,” Mattis said. “My dad said it’s like starting a race, then signing up for another one before you even finish.”

“Yeah, I still have no real clue what I want to do,” Mattis said. “There are a few different things I think I want to do with life, maybe marketing, communications consultant I don’t really know yet. I am honestly hoping grad school helps me but I know how lucky I am that I get the opportunity to find out.”

For the countless college students who continue their education after college without interuption, there are peers who cannot due to circumstances out of their control.

“I know I need to go to grad school in order to get to the job I want to do but right now I just can’t,” Anthony Panasiewicz, a senior political science major at the College at Brockport, said.

“I started college at Duquesne (University) and loved it.” Panasiewicz said. “I loved Pittsburgh and was able to do a lot with my two years there, but I didn’t work as hard as I should have, and it cost me. I was forced to move back home to Webster and transfer to Brockport. It wasn’t the ideal situation, but at least I still had options.”

After spending two years at Duquesne, Panasiewicz accrued too much student loan debt to stay but the debt also had ramifications on other aspects of his future.

“Right now I financially can’t go to grad school” Panasiewicz said. “I need to get a job after graduation to pay back some debt and then save up for grad school.”

Not having complete control of your future is a frustrating circumstance for many new college graduates, especially when they’ve worked so hard to get there.

“It’s hard because I know exactly what I want to do and exactly what I need to do to get there,” Panasiewicz said. “It’s just not something feasible right now, I hope it will be someday, but right now all I can do is hope.”

As exciting as college graduation is, it is almost equally frightening for many. Students invest their time, money and effort in the hopes it all pays off in the future.

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