Sep 302009
 
Authors: Phoenix MourningStar

“Victoria means victory, you know,” she called to me as we completed our interview. She said it in a most hopeful way, almost as if to say, “this wasn’t supposed to be me.”

After having gotten to know “Victoria,” I learned that it had to be her, because sometimes the challenges thrown into a person’s life would be too much for many of us to bear. During our interview, I asked her if she’d ever thought about giving up. “Sure, I’ve thought about it, but where would that leave me?” she said. Sometimes giving up just isn’t an option.

I met Victoria on campus last week to talk about her experience as a student here at CSU, and I was unprepared for the reality campus life had sheltered me from.

At the part of the semester when many of us are beginning to consider studying, the talk of the Athletic Department’s successes and craze over Greek hazing has died down — Victoria is re-examining her graduation date; “two more years,” she says. By most calculations, this would make her a sophomore of around 20 or 21 years old and maybe living off-campus and away from the parental units for the first time.

That is until you find out that Victoria is not just an excited student and amazing person, but a single mom as well. “At the tender young age of 48,” as she says, she’s trying to complete her degree for the third time over a period that has spanned nearly 30 years.

During that time, she’s raised a son while working, survived the passing of her mother, faced her own health issues and still managed to find time to smile and find the good things in life. When we met, the last thing she wanted to do was complain or be negative. But the truth is, according to Victoria, that “as a single parent you have to wear a lot of hats . and sometimes, you have to take on even more to make sure you don’t let your situation carry over to your kid.”

I wanted to talk to Victoria about her experiences because this time last year, the economy was just beginning its decline.

If you’ve been on campus for a fall semester you probably know about Cans Around the Oval and the Hunger Banquet. This year, what we do here on campus to make Cans Around the Oval a success may affect more people than ever before.

They are students who can’t quite make ends meet because they make just more than the income limits to get federal assistance, they are graduate students who weren’t able to get assistantships and have had to take on the costs of mandatory health insurance themselves and they are single dads and moms who have been laid off and are hoping to make a career change.

They are students and community members just like us and Victoria for whom quitting isn’t an option. The people we can help are not “those” people, or as one person said, “free-loaders on the system.” Some of the people we help are our classmates and staff members in our offices. We are helping our fellow Rams.

And that’s what community is about, right? Looking out for and taking care of one another when we can. I’ve never myself been on a food assistance program, and I’ll likely never know how hard it truly is to raise a family while working and going to school. But I know we are lucky to be a part of a community of 25,000 strong — let’s not forget what that means. I did look up the meaning of “Victoria.”

Phoenix Mourning-Star is a graduate student in environmental and radiological health sciences. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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