Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Illiterate Writer

As the cost of higher education continues to increase, a growing number of Americans are finding it unaffordable to obtain a college education to say nothing of the paying off the outlandish and mismanaged federal student loans. To demonstrate this concept, I would like to tell you my story.

I am a 25-year-old, female civil engineer. When I was 2, my parents divorced and my father practically disappeared. By the time I was 6, I was diagnosed ADHD, suspected of dyslexia, and molested by a family friend. My mom worked her way up a local government job against several obstacles into management, placing her in the lower middle class, yet we only ever survived.

When I was 10 years old, shingles, ringworm, and strep throat placed me in quarantine for 21 consecutive days, during which time my mother discovered I was illiterate. Somehow, she scrapped together the money to enroll me in Sylvan Learning Center. In 6 months, my reading comprehension and writing skills increased from a 2nd grade reading level to a 12+ level. I also patched up some holes in my math skills and corrected a speech impediment. My mom told me there was nothing I could not achieve if I set my mind to it.

I never really thought about being disabled or illiterate because when I graduated high school in the top ten, I felt comfortable academically. I applied for dozens of scholarships fitting in as many essays amidst my Advanced Placement and Honors course work.  Unfortunately, given my demographic and mother's annual income, I was overlooked by numerous scholarships entering college with the Cal Grant, the 3rd place local Elk’s Lodge "Student of the Year" scholarship for $500, and the ever delightful federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.

From 2006-2008, I struggled like many underclassmen to register for classes in an overly impacted university when the California budget forced Cal Poly Pomona to cut nearly all of the lower division math classes.  Nevertheless, after 5 years, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. Despite numerous extracurricular activities including Chi Epsilon Job Fair Chair and Community Service Coordinator, I was unable to find gainful employment for 6 months and began volunteering with the City of Riverside Water Resources Department in November 2011. Unfortunately, my $25,000 student loans entered deferment until a water engineering consulting company mercifully hired me in July 2012.

Around February 2013, I decided to hone my literary skills; I wrote a short story, which very quickly became a full-length novel at 143,000 words. Now, looking back I realize the feat I accomplished. I overcame several learning and developmental disabilities to graduate top of my class in a mathematical field only to write the first book in a series in my spare time.

Despite all of my accomplishments, I received minimal scholarships. I am just a single student in the desperate middle class struggling to secure a future.  Hundreds of scholarships exist for the impoverished, but few exist for the surviving.  I am not a politician; I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of the Washington agenda, but what I do know is more of the middle class are working dead-end jobs hoping for a lucky break to continue their education.  I am now seeking publication of my novel in the hopes of starting a scholarship foundation to fill in the gap.  I will do my part to ensure all Americans can attend college.  What will you do?

Alexis Rhodes

P.S. If you would like to fact check my story, email storytellerrhodes@gmail.com requesting my real name and supporting documents.

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