"Opportunity for a Girl"

By Amra Salihefendic, Rock Valley College
Honorable Mention, 2006 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest

When I was only five years old, my life became very dark and cold, sort of lifeless. On June 25, 1991, a time so long ago yet still I can remember it like I am living it today, citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced genocide. I was little and so confused as to why my home, my family and my life had to be taken away from me. Physically I was there, but mentally I died. I had a body, but never had a shadow, because during the war the sun never shined.

I came to America for freedom, for success, and the most important reason, for opportunity. In my family no one has attend college; it was out of question for numerous reasons. My family has given me as much as they could, but they could not pay for me to attend college. I couldn't accept the little money they had, because they worked so hard for it. Their tired and ill bodies had very little to give to my brother and me. So I accepted that fact, because life is precious and I am grateful with the little things I get.

I speak four languages (Bosnian, German, Spanish and English). As the years passed by in high school, I've watched my friends fill out applications for universities and colleges. It broke my soul into pieces. I knew I had little chance, and some of the students that applied did not love school as much as i did. They didn't take the pride in it as I did. I read books in four different languages. They only spoke one. When I got out of high school, my father surprised me on my birthday and told me I would be attending Rock Valley College. I will never forget that 18th birthday.

My first semester was so interesting to me; I loved the classes I was in. I studied and learned so much, I couldn't believe I was in college. The most thing I appreciate about this community college is that it is affordable for students like me, who dream big and have goals in life, but financially can't afford expensive tuition. As semesters passed by, my small goals became bigger and bigger. When I first started I wanted to be a police officer; now my dream leads me to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Rock Valley also offers pre-requisite classes so that if you didn't score high enough on the ACT exam, you still have a chance to go to a college. Most universities and colleges won't even look at your background or hear from you if your ACT score is not meeting their requirements. This community college has opportunity written all over it. It gives foreign students a chance to attend college, not only the rich and wealthy. I am just very proud of where I am, proud I can tell someone I am attending college, for this country, for my family, and for me.

For additional information about ICCTA's Paul Simon Student Essay Contest, please contact Kim Villanueva at 217-528-2858, ext. 1.

Illinois Community College Trustees Association
401 E. Capitol Ave., Suite 200
Springfield, IL 62701-1711
217-528-2858 (phone)
217-528-8662 (fax)
ICCTA@communitycolleges.org (e-mail)

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