Oakton changed my life


Andrew Deger

When I first enrolled at Oakton, I did not expect much. It was the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. A common misconception about students who enroll with poor grades at community college is that no school wanted them. Although my high school grades were extremely low, I still could have attended a 4-year school. I chose Oakton over that school because I felt like that university did not meet my true potential.  I was upset at first that I wouldn’t be on a big campus, and I assumed it was impossible to attend a top university after community college.

But when I graduated with my Associate of Arts from Oakton with a 4.0 GPA in May, my acceptances included the University of California, Berkeley, UCLA, UC-Davis, UC-Irvine, UC-San Diego, UC-Santa Barbara, and the University of Illinois.  I am excited to be transferring to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill as a Political Science major in the Fall of 2022.

If you had told an 18-year-old me the names of the schools that offered me admission, I would not have believed you.

The truth is that I came into high school not wanting to be there, and, in turn, I felt like I was discarded as a lost cause. I spent multiple years in special education because I simply did not want to show up.  Students in special education were seen as the least intelligent kids at school.  I wanted to prioritize my education at Oakton, but I was concerned because of all of the negative stigma around community college. It was never promoted as a good option at my high school. All these perceptions quickly faded into the abyss as a myth when I started my classes. I realized with some research that I had truly found a lifeline.

 I found my voice when I joined a variety of clubs, such as the Student Government Association, the Honors Students Organization, and the student newspaper, the OCCurrence. I enjoyed how my professors came off as kind and relatable. I quickly found out that they were experts in their fields. I have enjoyed every class I have taken, part of this is due to everyone in the community being friendly and approachable. I also have extreme gratitude for the professors who helped me professionally, with advice and career planning.

I thought that all my professors were amazing, but some of the best were Dr. Erick Mann, Dr. Kristin McCartney, Professor Bradley Young, Professor Lindsey Hewitt, Professor Richard DiMaio, Professor Cumpston, and Professor Benson-Lira. I liked taking history with Dr. Mann because the tests we had were open book and based on the textbook. I enjoyed this because I felt like I learned the information more when I wasn’t under pressure. I also enjoyed Professor Young, Professor DiMaio, and also Professor Cumpston’s classes because, for the three classes, respectively, the study guides and homework acted as genuinely reliable resources. I knew that similar questions to what I was studying were going to be on the exam.

One thing I never had a professor allow for until I came to Oakton was revisions on my writing. In Dr. McCartney’s ethics classes, we had the opportunity to revise all our work. This was amazing because allowing students to revise helped me reflect on my work. I enjoyed Professor Hewitt’s class because I got to learn more about an interesting topic, which was the history of women and gender studies. Lastly, I enjoyed Professor Benson-Lira’s geography and earth science classes, because I got to participate in service learning. I had already volunteered, but I felt a sense of recognition at the Spring Service-Learning Showcase.

 I am grateful that after a poor high school experience, I got a second chance. The curriculum at Oakton was challenging but rewarding at the same time. The support offered by my professors is something I will never forget. I genuinely fell in love with academics due to it. As I reflect on these past two years, I would not trade going to community college for anything. The life experiences I went through both in school and out of school are invaluable. I truly believe that I would not have had the opportunity to grow if I had not chosen to come to Oakton.

Go Tar Heels!

-Andrew Deger