A Walk Long-Delayed

Illustraiton of a women wearing a cap and gown
Illustration by Jeff Sweet

For members of the class of 2024, perseverance paid off, as they experience their first traditional graduation following a nontraditional end of high school and beginning of college.

In March 2020, I was excited about my plans for the remainder of my high school senior year. I could not wait to walk across the stage, receive my diploma and celebrate with my friends and family. I was eager to move out of my hometown in Virginia and spend the next four years in Massachusetts at Holy Cross.

My sister was a senior at the College and thrilled that I was going to be a part of Holy Cross’ incoming class. Since she arrived on The Hill in 2016, she would always tell me how she loved the College because of the welcoming community and the endless opportunities at Mount St. James.

However, on March 23, 2020, Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam announced that schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My family and I were shocked by this news. During this unsettling time, my mother also received a phone call from my sister, who told her that Holy Cross was sending students home due to the rising cases of COVID-19. From then on, my sister and I would each finish our senior year on Zoom.

After my first semester, I realized how drastically different my college experience was compared with my high school experience.

I remember starting my first year of college in my living room. Although it was not ideal, I was excited and nervous about joining my first class on Zoom. After my first semester, I realized how drastically different my college experience was compared with my high school experience. In high school, I always received good grades and did well in classes, so I thought it would translate the same when I became a college student. However, after my first semester, I received a reality check. After realizing the workload for college was very different, I put in extra work to do well in my classes. Even after pushing myself, I felt as though I was experiencing burnout and the work I put into my classes was not translating into how I performed on exams.

As a first-year student, I thought it was normal to feel this way. However, after seeking guidance from my dean, she connected me with resources that would allow me to be successful. One of the resources that changed my life was the Office of Student Accessibility Services. I was diagnosed with dyslexia in my second semester, and the office helped me in every way since, especially in navigating and organizing my academic accommodations each semester. I am very grateful for everything the office has done to support me throughout my four years at the College.

In my first semester, I also felt isolated as a student attending classes over Zoom. Even though I made connections with my classmates, I missed being a part of clubs and organizations aligned with my passions and interests, so I took the initiative to find and join some. I was excited to intern for HCF1RST, an organization for first-generation students like myself. After four years of being involved in the club, I am so thankful for all the friends and connections I have made. Since my first semester, I have seen this club flourish and expand to assist more first-generation college students. I also volunteered with Ascentria Care Alliance and Girls Inc., mentoring students, assisting them with homework and participating in activities with them. Even though all this involvement was over Zoom, I enjoyed every moment.

By the spring semester of my sophomore year, COVID-19 restrictions were fully lifted and it felt like I was finally getting the Holy Cross experience I had been looking forward to. I was so excited about this chapter of my life. As a sophomore, I continued being involved with clubs such as HCF1RST, but I also worked at Dinand Library, the College’s Archives and Distinctive Collections and the Nativity School of Worcester. Working at Dinand and Archives has been the most fun and exciting job, mainly because of the wonderful people who work in both. I always tell my supervisors that I spend so much time at Dinand as it feels like a second home because of them. They have been my biggest cheerleaders since Day 1, especially when I was applying for a summer internship at the Library of Congress. Their encouragement gave me confidence throughout the application and interview process and I was able to secure the internship.

The College not only opened doors for me, but also for my community.

During my second year at Holy Cross, I had to make the decision to declare my major. Prior to that spring semester, I took courses in diverse disciplines, such as Spanish, history, education and math. However, it was when I took Principles of Economics with Professor Thomas Gottschang that I knew that economics would be my major. In his class, I realized that with economics, I can intertwine it with other disciplines and become a changemaker with the knowledge I gain from the economics courses offered at the College.

After surviving my first two years at Holy Cross over Zoom, I am so thankful that my four years involved making countless friendships, memories and life-changing experiences. That is why I was delighted to graduate in May with a degree in economics, a minor in education and a concentration in Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean Studies. I finally walked across a commencement stage and received my diploma in front of family and friends. As a first-generation Latina, this moment meant so much for my family and me. I am grateful that Holy Cross supported and empowered me to fulfill my dreams of becoming a successful businesswoman who pays it forward to her community. The College not only opened doors for me, but also for my community.