I remember as my senior year of high school was winding down, the incessant chatter among my classmates circled around one topic -- the future.
What school are you going to? What's your major? Are you nervous about moving? How many scholarships did you get?
While the majority of my classmates were getting ready for the big move to major four-year universities, I was struggling to come to terms with my decision to stay at Merced Community College.
Enrolling in Merced College was not part of my five-year plan. In fact, for as long as I could remember, I had been vehemently opposed to the idea of staying in Merced, much less attending a community college.
Perhaps this was because the people around me had always, sometimes unknowingly and at other times on purpose, propagated the notion that the only way to make something of yourself was to leave Merced.
Friends and even teachers often reinforced the feeling that Merced College is some sort of lesser institution, a place to be used as the absolute last recourse. So, by choosing to go there, I was putting myself at the bottom of the educational barrel.
Foolishly, I bought wholeheartedly into this idea. I firmly believed that going to Merced College would make me less of a student and less likely to succeed.
I was naive; I was sure that just wanting to go to college would make everything fall into place. I was equally sure that the obstacles my parents so aptly pointed out (such as rising tuition costs, living expenses and a basic lack of life experience, etc.) were insignificant nuisances that would quickly fade away.
But once I begrudgingly resigned myself to my fate as a community college student, I made a personal promise to rack up my units and get out of there as quickly as I could.
However, I soon found that the image of Merced College that I, and many of my comrades, had cultivated was completely wrong.
But I had to be shaken up before I saw the light.
The more involved I became with the school, the more I realized the opportunities and resources it had to offer. Attending a community college does not permanently brand you as a lesser individual, despite what I had been led to believe.
I encountered dynamic professors who were genuinely invested in their students' success. I started attending student government meetings, where I was taken aback to find such a passionate group of people who cared about constructing a positive environment for all students.
I joined our budding campus newspaper, The Blue Devil Report, and immediately felt a wave of relief. I had found a home among like-minded students who taught me one of the most valuable lessons I've learned -- college would be what I decided to make of it.
Merced College is not the be-all and end-all for its students; it's a vehicle to help us move our dreams forward, one complete with a multitude of resources to aid students in their journeys.
I wonder what it is about being a teenager that makes it so hard to listen to advice?
Maybe it's part of the balance of life, and we have to learn for ourselves what is truly valuable.
Montse Reyes is a sophomore at Merced College majoring in sociology.