My name is Kibret Tsige. I am from Arlington, VA, but my parents emigrated from Eritrea about 30 years ago. I didn’t always envision myself as a community college student. At my high school in Arlington, success seemed to be measured by acceptance into an elite university. My high school’s newspaper showed the university every graduate would attend. At first, seeing Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) next to my name was disheartening. It took me some time to realize the value of attending community college, but now I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the two years I spent at community college. During my time there I was able to acquire the tools and focus I lacked in high school and the affordability allowed me to explore a variety of classes without having to cope with anxiety surrounding student debt.
My family’s income is modest, so FAFSA covered the vast majority of my tuition. As an honor student at NVCC, I benefitted from a program that awarded me the cost of three credit hours, about $425, if I maintained a GPA of 3.5 or higher while taking 12 or more honors credits per semester. Most of the classes were general education courses no different from those my friends enrolled in at four-year universities. In fact, we often had the same textbooks.
I wish more people viewed community college the way I do now. It was truly a wonderful experience. I was able to grow and prepare for the next step in my education. After I graduated from NVCC, I transferred to American University in Washington, DC where I graduated from in 2015 with latin honors. I was the first in my family to graduate from college.
Free community college is important. It gives people like me a chance to find their calling without having to waste time piling on debt. If community college were free, I know more people like me would benefit. This is why I support Heads Up America.