Hessami Hernandez, LSC-University Park

Winning Essay:

The night before I made up my mind to visit the Lone Star University Park campus I couldn't sleep. I kept envisioning a happier, less tired Hessami, who had more time for her children, a better job and greater financial security. Upon arriving at the campus, a friendly officer directed me towards the Academic Advising office. While waiting for my name to be called I questioned my decision about returning to school at the age of 36. Was I doing the right thing for myself and my family?

The advisor was very well informed and encouraging. She made me a to-do list that was easy to follow. It listed in detail, everything I would need to get started on my journey towards a higher education. The first step was placement testing. The ladies in that department wished me luck as they handed me a scientific calculator and sent me in. I didn't even remember how to use that thing, seeing the look on my face, they assured me that they would be right there if I had any questions or needed any assistance.

Because I felt like I didn't belong in a traditional classroom I wanted to sign up for online classes. However, one of the tests revealed that I would do better in a traditional classroom setting. I returned to the Academic Advisor with my test scores and signed up for 'in person' classes in the fall of 2013. I was still a little nervous, but, not as much as I was when I first walked in that morning. The friendliness and helpfulness of the University Park staff that I met so far eased my mind a bit.

On August twenty-fifth 2013, I walked into my HUMD class and sat in the corner at the back. It was my first class of the day and as the room filled up with students, I exhaled when I realized I wasn't the only older person in there. The instructor went over all the student services that were available to us and insisted that we try to use them all. After going on several scavenger hunts, I was blown away by the facilities the college had made available to assist the students. I felt like I was in the right place. That I had made the best decision for myself and my family.

My next class was Math, with whom I've had a really, rocky relationship in the past. For the first time in my life, Math made sense to me. I could understand my instructor, his teaching style was like nothing I had ever experienced before. He created a learning environment that was conducive to each student's learning style. Formulas that lay dormant in my brain, awoke from their slumber. Most importantly, I felt his genuine concern for the students and their success.

I secretly dreaded going to my computer science class. In the past I have only used the computer to check and send emails, order supplies for the restaurant where I worked and make travel arrangements. The professor made the class fun and informative. Before long I was identifying operating systems, naming components and troubleshooting. My fear of technology had taken a back seat to my hunger for knowledge. It was here that I would do the first of many group projects. These projects helped foster an environment that prepared students for the workplace. They encouraged a tolerance for diversity among the students.

My last class of the day took me to the love of my life, English. It was in that classroom that my passion for writing, flourished. Spurred on by the creative essence of the other students, we exchanged thoughts and ideas in a setting that was geared towards bringing out the best in each of us. This setting could not have been possible without the guidance of an amazing professor. It was evident that he loved what he did and you could see it in his interaction with each student. This class was the icing on the cake for me.

Four semesters later, I'm in the Honors College, a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Outreach Coordinator for the Teachers to Be club. My experiences here at Lone Star UP have exposed me to a multicultural, multi-ethnic group of faculty and students. I have made new friends from all over the world. Lone Star UP has the most incredible professors, men and women who are sincerely concerned with my success. This campus experience has enriched my life beyond measure. Lone Star UP is a real community, made up of faculty and staff who are committed to the Lone Star UP brand and are dedicated to providing me with an excellent education.

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