This story was submitted to us by Cynthia J. Anderson, San Francisco State University.

I am a first generation college student. Neither of my parents finished college. They struggled to help me finance my education, and I have always had to work along with carrying a full-time load of units. Even in doing so, I graduated my bachelor’s degree as valedictorian.

However, this would not have been possible without funding from the federal Pell grant. The Pell grant gave me the opportunity to pay for expenses like housing, books, food, and other necessities. I consistently lived on a tight budget and struggled to make sure I didn’t exceed my means. I took out student loans, but the Pell grant was the only way I could make my budget work and pay for the cost of attendance.

I saw the price of tuition and general living expenses sky-rocket through the years I completed my bachelor’s degree. For example, gas changed from about $2.15/gallon to way over $3.00/gallon and stayed there; but, my commute to school was the same and my necessity to drive had not diminished. Instead, these changes in living expenses made it harder for me to attend school, but the Pell grant helped to assuage some of those financial challenges.

Even so, finances were never easy and the Pell grant did not afford me any luxuries outside of the blessing of attending school. The Pell grant does not make students rich or give students funding they’re not deserving or desiring – it gives them opportunity. It gave me my degree in nursing, and now I can give back to the community that helped fund that education through tax dollars being wisely apportioned to fund the Pell grant.

The gift of education is the one thing that no one, no matter how hard they try, can take away. Being able to learn and create a better opportunity for yourself and your family is a privilege millions of people around the world would die to have. And people have died trying to get the education they know will better their lives.

Education is an endless expansion of possibility. The intrinsic worth and motivation that comes with the accomplishment of education inspires people, and these inspired individuals change our country. With a better lexicon and well-rounded reasoning and theory, individuals can procure better jobs and advocate for changes needed.

In completing a higher education, people become better role models of achievement and perseverance, which in turn encourages others to do the same. This domino effect of motivation is just what our country needs during times of growth and economic uncertainty.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Education means one person can make a difference and, in doing so, they will gain a priceless education and inspire.

For me to inspire, I needed help funding that education. I needed the federal Pell grant to give me the chance at a higher education.

I was a high-achieving student who would have been lost in the monotony of a retail job or career I didn’t have a passion for had I not received help funding a higher education. How many other smart students are out there, ready to change our world, ready to better their lives and the lives of those around us, but cannot afford it? The Pell grant offers that funding.

The Pell grant is an essential part of the multi-colored quilt of our nation because it creates the patchwork pieces. It is what creates artists, humanitarians, medical professionals, engineers, historians, computer designers, scientists, and so many others. It is one of the most important parts of education. Nothing in the classroom can begin until students fill the seats. And very honestly, those students will be sitting in jobs rather than classrooms without the help of the Pell grant.

Please do not cut funding for this vital part of our educational system – it’ll be a sacrifice of so much more than money.


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