Since the sixth grade my plan had always been to attend Whatcom Community College as a Running Start student. My goal of becoming a physician had encouraged me to make the decision to earn a transfer degree and shave off two years of college from the long college years ahead.
When I first stepped foot on Whatcom's campus, I was a wide-eyed high school junior seeking a fresh start from the typical lifestyle lead by a Bellingham High student. Although I had always loved learning, I had come to a point where school was not as enjoyable, and I thought that Running Start could be what I needed to reignite that fire I once had for school.
In two years I have taken more than 20 courses, ranging from the basics of English and math to the undeniably unique like Anthology of the Ancient Near East and Sociology of Deviance. However, there were a few classes that stood head and shoulders above the rest. One was my spring 2012 biology class with Debbie Lancaster, Ph.D., a brilliant woman whose passion for science showed through her lectures and labs. Her ability to connect with her students allowed us to delve deeper into the subject. Dr. Lancaster challenged me, heartening me to not merely memorize information but to understand it and, at times, question it. There are very few people in this world who truly love what they do. I am lucky enough to say that I have met one of them and because of her I now am confident that I will be one too.
As I explored the other opportunities that the campus had to offer, I came across the Associated Students of Whatcom Community College student council. Its vision and mission is to serve students by providing diverse opportunities for campus involvement, to build campus community and represent student concerns in college decision making. After I had read its mission, I knew that this was the right place for me to start my quest to have an impact on the campus community.
I began my first winter term of college as representative at large. As part of my duty, I was the liaison between all Whatcom students and the student council. My goal: to listen to students and advocate their concerns to the council. My role as a leader on campus encouraged me to truly take charge of my life. I believe that I have always been a strong person who has jumped over many hurdles, but my life had always been only about me. Now, as a student leader, I was devoted to standing up for and thinking about others. And although managing others' needs is a lot of responsibility, it is a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have made a legitimate impact in your community. And that is what I have always wanted.
Being a Running Start student has been an incredible learning experience. It has taught me above all else to take initiative. Throughout these two years I had to be in charge of my own learning; my high school was no longer there to guide me. With the assistance of the wonderful women in the Running Start office and other WCC staff and faculty members, I am now a proud Whatcom graduate. However, learning is a lifelong process. That's a lesson that WCC has taught me, and as I walk the campus I am encouraged by its diversity in ethnicity, age and experience to grow and to keep discovering.
ABOUT WINDOW ON MY WORLD
Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phelicia Parker lives in Bellingham. After graduating from Whatcom Community College in spring 2013 with an Associate in Arts and Sciences degree, she will transfer her credits to American University in Washington D.C., majoring in public health and minoring in biology as a part of the three-year undergraduate program. More than 900 students attend Whatcom as Running Start students. The program is a statewide partnership between high schools and community colleges that allows juniors and seniors to enroll simultaneously in high school and college classes or solely at the college tuition-free. Students receive both high school and college credit for completed classes.