In my previous life—before 2013—I was a successful sales rep for a charter bus company. Back then, all I knew about MAP (Monetary Award Program) funding was that local colleges chartered motor coaches to Springfield every year for MAP Lobby Day. Little did I know that MAP would become a significant factor in my life.
I had been attending classes on a part-time basis at my local community college, and the time to transfer to a four-year university was quickly approaching. I had filled out my FAFSA early in preparation. The plan was to transfer to a school that had an acceptable program in sociology and anthropology, but, more importantly, a class schedule that would conform to my full-time work and parenting responsibilities. Because I was the sole source of support for a family of four, this was nonnegotiable. The school I planned to attend wasn’t my first choice, but I had a plan.
On July 8, 2013, I could say that my world was flipped upside down twice, but that would be wrong. I landed pretty far from right side up. The company that had employed me through my divorce, helped me purchase my home and provided the means to support my family for nine years ceased operations. Later that day, my older brother, who was a father figure to me since my dad died many years ago, was rushed to the hospital and passed away in the early morning hours of July 9.
Obviously, this was a time of great shock and pain for me. But it also provided a chance to contemplate a new direction. I realized that without a full-time job, I might be able to attend school during the day, which meant I could pursue my first-choice program and school—social justice studies at Roosevelt University. I called the admission department and was told that I could come in the next day. I sat down with a counselor and immediately knew Roosevelt was the place for me.
But could I pay for it? It turns out, yes. I was awarded financial aid and scholarship money, with a manageable payment plan on the balance. Since I had filled out my FAFSA early in the year, a MAP grant was included in that aid package. Without the MAP grant, the balance would have been too great for me to pay.
Have there been obstacles? Difficulties? Lean times? Absolutely. My decision to attend school full time radically changed my household. But it changed my household for the better. Higher education has a constant presence in our home. This is a profound difference from my experiences as a child. The topics of conversation in my house are just as likely to be about differences between MLA and APA style as they are about travel softball and laundry. In addition to fellowships, scholarships, majors and minors, we discuss issues and concepts like feminism, environmental justice, police brutality and politics. All of this is because I am a full-time student. My response to the hardships of July 2013 has done more to inform my children’s opinions about overcoming adversity and finishing college than any nagging speech ever could.
Today, I have one semester left until I graduate from Roosevelt with a bachelor’s degree in social justice with a political science minor. I have stayed on the dean’s list, was selected as an inaugural Four Freedoms Fellow, and I am now evaluating my graduate school options. I have a great student worker job in the Office of Government Relations and University Outreach where I am able to help Roosevelt advocate for the importance of MAP and other issues that benefit students. My ultimate goal is to do meaningful work in the area of public policy with regards to issues that affect social justice. I have met the most inspiring, passionate people of all ages during this time and can say with absolute certainty that this was the best decision that I have ever made.
Like many Illinois students, I can say that MAP makes the difference for me between being in college or not. Too many students are not able to benefit because of insufficient funds.
That is my MAP story. What is yours?