With the 2013 Pride Foundation scholarship application deadline just weeks away, guest writer Nawwal Moustafa shares her gratitude as a Pride Foundation Scholar and an out and proud lesbian who is currently attending Western Oregon University.
Thinking about graduating from Western Oregon University this year is bittersweet. I eagerly await the opportunity to begin my next journey; however I have had such tremendous experiences as an undergraduate and met incredible friends and mentors.
On occasion I stop and think about where I have been, and where I am going—I am on track to receive two degrees in less than five years, when there was never any guarantee that I would attend college at all. One important lesson I have learned as an undergraduate is the correlation between the gratitude experienced by an individual and their well-being. I am up to my elbows in gratitude on a daily basis.
One aspect of my life for which I feel gratitude is my upbringing. Although my family struggled financially for my entire childhood, my mother was a poised example of grace under fire every day. My parents divorced when I was just a small child, and my father left us to return to his home country in Egypt. My mother stepped up to the plate, enrolled us in public school, began working for the first time in more than a decade, and returned to school to finish her degree that she started more than twenty years before. I had the opportunity to watch my mother graduate from college during my childhood years. If it weren’t for watching her strive for a better life, I do not think I would have understood that college is a necessity and can transform a person’s life in the best ways possible.
The environment in which I grew up was not conducive to pursuing higher education nor did growing up in poverty put the odds in my favor. However, if I have learned anything outside of the classroom thus far in my life, it is that the pursuit of something bigger can trump any kind of odds.
Being a Pride Foundation Scholarship recipient has been tremendously beneficial, and I cannot express in words how thankful I am. I will graduate with less than half of the national average of debt, and for the first time in a while, I am working just one part-time job instead of my typical two or three. This summer, I was in a car accident and sustained an injury that limited work opportunities for me. However, because of my Pride Foundation Scholarship, I was still able to pay for school this year. Not only did receiving a scholarship lessen my financial hardship, I was able to be a part of a community, something bigger than myself. It was a group of people acknowledging who I am and telling me I’m worth something and that I matter.
It is difficult to say what is next for me—I recently had my final interview for the Teach for America program, and I may graduate earlier than planned in order to accept a job offer in Student Affairs at Western Oregon University (Go Wolves!). While I don’t know what is next, I do know that I wouldn’t be here without all the support I received along the way.
Nawwal is receiving double degrees in Psychology and Film Studies/Theater and is a positive psychology enthusiast and improvisational comedian. Her involvement at the university includes the Western Oregon University SafeZone, the PLUS Orientation team, and coaching youth basketball. When Nawwal is not studying for finals, she loves relaxing and watching Golden Girls.