By Ray Diaz/El Inde
It seemed as though everything was aligning perfectly: I was covering the University of Arizona Women’s Basketball team on their historic run and I had just gotten promoted at my job. Most importantly, I was on my way to walk across the stage and become the first member of my family to graduate from college.
This has arguably been one of the best school years I have had, when I felt more focused than ever as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just as my excitement grew, I was quickly snapped back into reality like the millions of others when Covid-19 hit.
It became real for me once I received word that the Women’s Basketball season would be cancelled and most professional sports would be postponed. It was heartbreaking to know that I was not going to have the opportunity to finish covering the best season the team had in the last 20 years.
To a degree I could relate to all the other seniors. I had devoted endless hours of sweat and tears over exams, final papers and projects to be able to cherish my final college moment of walking.
This was going to be a celebration I so desperately needed. The road I took to get to where I’m at was not perfect, to say the least. My first two years I felt unmotivated, passing all my classes with Cs. I lacked the drive to even want to attend school, so I dropped out for a year and half.
Part of it was that I was unsure what I wanted to do after college, so I began working two jobs while I wasn’t in school and quickly realized that this was not something that I wanted to continue. The support system from my family is what ultimately drove me to finish what I started.
During my first two years in college, I didn’t seek out help from an advisor. I tried to do everything on my own. So I knew meeting with an advisor was the first stop I made when deciding to return to map out everything I needed to finish.
I was finally enrolled in journalism classes and it was my first time I had ever had the chance to write a news story. I was not very good, or rather, so bad that I received a D on my first assignment. I felt defeated, as though maybe coming back wasn’t such a good idea after all.
That is until we met with our professor following the first assignment, and he sat me down and told me not worry. He told me that he would help me polish my skills and that I could still walk out of class with a good grade. It was just the positive reinforcement that I needed; not only did I end the class with my first A in college, I was actually nominated to compete in a writing challenge for a scholarship.
That first semester back was the boost that I needed as each semester that followed my grades improved. I even built up the confidence to start writing for the Daily Wildcat and take opportunities like covering the NBA Summer League.
These are some of the things I’ll remember from my last semester of college: having Zoom meetings with my professors and classmates. Calling my mom, dad, siblings, grandparents and telling them that I will not be able to see them for the next few months. This is not the typical way a first-generation college graduate should be spending his last few months in school.
Even though this journey has come to end and I am set to receive my diploma, I feel empty. It’s something I and so many of my fellow graduates will have to live with for the rest of our lives.