Jessie Giron was among the thousands of other students watching her commencement ceremony online this year instead of attending it in person. While she shared that experience with most other graduates during the coronavirus pandemic, the story of how she got to the place to be able to participate in a commencement is uniquely hers.
Giron started classes at Waubonsee Community College in the fall of 2015 after she graduated from East Aurora High School. As a first-generation American and first-generation student, she did not know what to expect in college.
“It felt different here, meeting other people,” said Giron of her initial experience at Waubonsee.
As part of that larger learning experience, Giron had to learn if college was even right for her. She wrote in a social media post this summer that she wasn’t sure what path she wanted to take in 2016 and decided to take the next year off to see “if I wanted to keep going to school...”
Giron took a year off from college because she “wanted to focus on making better decisions.” When she returned to Waubonsee in 2017, she was better prepared to make better decisions. She had developed an interest in photography and a love to travel so she wanted to get into the world of media. This led her to graduate with a degree in communications in 2020.
“I’m kind of proud of myself. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I felt really happy and proud,” Giron said of being the first person in her family to graduate from college.
Giron has worked full-time while attending college; a fact that created additional stress in the spring 2020 semester when the coronavirus was wreaking havoc on school and work schedules.
“It was a bit overwhelming with a job around a lot of people and concerns about health and pay,” said Giron.
But she made the quick adjustment to online learning from in-person learning, even in a biology course.
“We [the students] were wondering how we were going to do our labs.”
The labs were completed, Giron graduated, and she is now a student at Northern Illinois University studying communications. She plans to continue to travel and write about her experiences.
Giron’s message to the world is clear.
“At this point in my life, I’m supposed to have my bachelor's degree already, but this is where people are wrong. We all have our own timeline and path to follow. It took me a few years to receive my associate degree because I wasn’t sure what path I wanted to take. Never let anyone decide your path.”