By Brittney Tierney
I was born and raised on a small three-acre farm in Atascadero, California, where every square inch was used for livestock. Coming from a rural community and being homeschooled all my life, community college helped my family a great deal. In fact, my two older sisters attended our local campus, Cuesta College, and I later followed in their footsteps.
When I was 14, I began taking my first classes at Cuesta through a dual enrollment program. Having been homeschooled, this program acted as a transition from homeschooling to a public school setting and prepared me for being a full-time college student. This program not only allowed me to have a better understanding of what college would be like, but it also gave me the opportunity to accelerate my higher education. The dual enrollment opportunity certainly gave me a jump start towards my dream of attaining a higher education.
When I graduated from high school in 2014, I had one year left to finish my Associate degree. That was the year I received the Cuesta Promise scholarship. This opportunity provided me with one year of free tuition. This was such a blessing for me, given that I come from a single-income family. The Cuesta Promise allowed me to attend college full-time and complete my education without worrying about finances. It was amazing how everything lined up!
While attending Cuesta, I decided to study agriculture because it’s something that I have always been around. Growing up with two older sisters involved in agriculture, I was practically born into the 4-H program. I had the privilege to show our farm to students visiting from schools, particularly kids with disabilities. Thankfully, I was able to continue cultivating my love for agriculture because Cuesta was so close to home. I know many people who live in more rural areas that wouldn’t be attending college if they didn’t have access to a place like Cuesta.
If the Cuesta Promise wasn’t available, my college experience would have been very different. I would have needed to work additional jobs outside of school. Fortunately, because the Promise covered my tuition and fees, I was able to really focus on my studies.
Going into Cuesta, I knew that I wanted to transfer to the local four-year university, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. So I knew I needed to work hard and maintain a good GPA. That wouldn’t have been possible without Cuesta Promise. My GPA would have dropped if I had taken on yet another job and transferring would have been more challenging as well.
Many of my peers chose Cuesta over other community colleges because of its College Promise program. They were willing to drive the extra half hour to take advantage of this life-changing program. I definitely recommend that communities across the country consider starting their own free community college programs – and you can get started here! I know so many people who wouldn’t go to college otherwise. I’m so grateful to the Cuesta Promise, which provided me with an affordable way to further myself and my education. It paved the way for where I am today!