Austin Community College District (ACC) celebrates a record number of graduates at its 2020 fall commencement with a virtual ceremony Saturday, December 12. Our graduates are sharing their own stories about their experience at ACC and their goals for the future in a special graduate series.
In this edition, graduate Shannon Pinales shares her story.
When thinking about how my journey at Austin Community College started, I realized it began in a high school dual credit class. During my senior year, I took this class after school, the semester after my mother had died from cancer. At that time in my life, so many things felt uncertain, and I had honestly lost many parts of myself, but attending that class was a part of many things that slowly helped me rebuild hope in my life. School had always been a safe place for me growing up, a place where I could learn and grow and grasp what opportunities this world has for me. After I had graduated high school, I had to take some time to reflect and relearn who I was and what my passions in life were. Eventually, I realized I wanted to actively find out how I, in my own way, could make this world a better place. For me, this meant I wanted to go back to school, specifically Austin Community College.
I decided to go back to ACC full-time in the fall of 2018 as a science major with hopes of getting into the medical field. I remember feeling incredibly nervous. I was scared I didn't belong in college, that I didn't have enough support to do it, or that my mental health was still too unstable. Fortunately, all the various faculty, students, and staff who helped me in my first couple of semesters motivated me to realize I belonged here. Within my time at ACC, I became an officer for the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a leader in the Peer Money Mentor Program, and a leader in the Supplemental Instruction program. I also became very active in several other student-led organizations and volunteer opportunities. It felt like every semester I would discover another opportunity for personal and community development that I could not wait to become a part of. I participated in all these opportunities while also taking classes full-time and being financially independent. I was doing so much, but it was all so fulfilling, and I learned so much about myself.
When the first semester of 2020 had begun, I was back up and running, ready to put in the work needed to continue my educational journey. Then in March, the day before spring break, one of my professors told the class how it was very likely our spring break might be extended, maybe a week or so, due to the COVID-19 outbreaks. We all left class that day unaware that we would, in fact, not be coming back, but instead, we would be experiencing a worldwide pandemic, quarantined in our homes, and uprooting everything that we had planned for that spring. A few months later, in May, the world also witnessed the murder of a Black man, which sparked a new wave of protests in demand of social justice. These traumas made all the things I was doing seem so small amidst these major global waves of change. These traumas created days where I had little to no motivation, where I was depressed and anxious. When summer classes started, I was luckily able to slow down, rest, and reflect. At this time, I remembered why I was at ACC; to learn how I can help this world become a better place.
While at ACC, I have had the honor to meet and work with a wide variety of people in the ACC community. One thing that I see in everyone I have met – is our resiliency. The fact that we are still here, we are still trying, and we are still making the most out of all our struggles is incredible. Due to this resiliency I see at ACC, I feel I need to share a statement that I believe the ACC community and I need to remember during our journeys to success. It is that we must also embrace the concept that rest, recovery, and reflection are essential parts of the progress towards success. Without this concept, I do not think we could have survived this far; I know I would not have. I want to commend not only the hard work that we put into our time here at ACC, but I also want to commend the time we took to rest, recover, and reflect so that we could take the necessary steps towards our individual paths of success.