The Transition: Responsibility
In undergrad I had a colleague who had a one year old daughter when she came to Howard, I had a friend who was already married, and I had friends who worked to pay the bills for their entire family back home. However, these cases were few and far in between. Most of us were living lives where we only had to be responsible for ourselves and our money was ours to do what we wanted with. When I entered Howard University as a freshman, I was open to all possibilities. I could attend a conference if I wanted to, take a last minute trip to New York City or back home, or leave the country, and I could have afforded to take an unpaid internship.
My first year in graduate school things have changed drastically, I am in a committed relationship with the person that I will undoubtedly spend the rest of my life with. We have a puppy that takes up a lot of our finances and we send money home to take care of ailing relatives. I can’t just take off and go wherever I want to because I have another person to consider. I work, go to class, volunteer for various initiatives that I have a passion for, and have recently started a business. I think I have it pretty tough until I sit in class and listen to the stories of other graduate students. Some of them have children, work two full time jobs, and are the sole bread winner in their family. In undergrad, a person with these responsibilities was an exception; in graduate school it appears to be the rule.
I have a deeper appreciation for those I went to school with who dealt with these responsibilities while also getting accustomed to life away from home and trying to have a true collegiate experience. I struggled with my personal budget and I only had myself to look out for. I wonder how they managed to support themselves and their family off of the small refund check that they may have received from federal aid. I wonder how they afforded the rising costs of groceries, healthcare, and energy bills.
I ask these questions in light of the Advocacy Day the Howard community is hosting in favor of healthcare reform called Howard on the Hill. It takes place this Wednesday at 11:00 am and 2:30 pm. As a university community, current students, alumni, staff, administrators, and friends, we are meeting with our congressional representatives to discuss why it is so important. It is important for the few undergraduates and many graduate students who are silently struggling to make ends meat in order to receive their education. Many of them rely solely on student insurance to provide for their healthcare needs. A public option would give them another option that would stay with their families even after they graduated and offer protection for their young children in the case of an emergency. The issues we have as graduate students are not unique to our population; we all have different forms of responsibility. One responsibility is to be a voice for the voiceless. Young adults are the group most likely to be uninsured. We need to speak up for each other. Behind every parent in my class is a child who may be one illness or injury away from the emergency room. Health care is a human right and we are all responsible for maintaining it.