4 years ago, if someone told me that I would, not only be graduating from a 4 year college, but also going to graduate school, I would have regarded their comments with disdain. I never thought that I could go to college. It had always been a dream of mine, but I knew that it was extremely unaffordable. However, despite the feeling that I had to do it all on my own, I applied to six colleges, and I got into every one of them. I got scholarships to all of them. It was still unaffordable.
4 years ago, I went on a road trip from Charleston, SC to Winston-Salem, NC. Little did I know that this trip would be the one to change my life quite a bit. I was not expecting much from Salem College, but I got the opportunity of a lifetime. During Scholarship Weekend, I met my big sister who told me incredible things about Salem. When I met her during Acafellas, I, then, knew that Salem would be the school for me. I had been blessed with such a wonderful experience.
The next morning, I had my interview. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember feeling right at home. I was incredible nervous because I had finally become invested in Salem. It was beginning to feel like home. I did not feel very good about my interview, and I feared that I would not have the funds to attend Salem. I wanted to do well, but I was just so nervous. I prayed and I hoped that everything would work itself out.
Since then, I had my admissions counselor calling almost weekly to check on me and work with me through the process. I wasn’t alone anymore. Most of my friends were applying to trade schools and going into the workforce or the military, but I was going to have the opportunity to go to a 4 year college. Soon after my interview during Scholarship Weekend, I got my scholarship letter. Upon receiving it, I could feel the tears forming. Between my scholarships and grants, I was going to Salem with no out-of-pocket cost to me, with the exception of my books. I could cry. It was in that moment that I decided to come to Salem.
Since the first day that I came to campus, I felt extremely welcomed. Everyone made me feel like I belonged, even though I continuously felt like I was not smart enough to be here. My first year at Salem I did not feel like I was smart enough to be here and I rarely spoke in class. Since then, I have taken classes where my voice is encouraged. I have learned that my opinions matter, my voice matters, and that I will not be silenced, no matter how express my arguments for or against a particular thing. Salem has encouraged me.
As a senior, I am working for a national organization to help build and encourage others in rural communities (specifically trans and queer people of color). I am writing a thesis, analyzing Trans and Queer POC in Social Justice Movement Work. I would have never picked such a pressing and important topic as a first year.
I am discovering myself. I am proud to be a transgender non-binary person of color. I am facilitating a LGBTQIA+ Self-Help Group on campus. I am going to Wake Forest Divinity School in the fall. It brings me to tears when I think of how much Salem has changed me. Not only have I found my voice, but I am helping so many other [marginalized] people find their voices as well.
Salem is the best thing that has happened to me. No school is perfect, but Salem has changed my life for the better, and for that, I am truly thankful. The odds were stacked against me, but I rose above it all. I’m graduating in 3 months. I’m going to Divinity School in 6 months. I am blessed, highly favored, and I’m empowered. 4 years ago, I was lost and had no idea who I would become. 4 years later, I am empowered and ready to go forth and change the world. I am home.
Alexx Andersen is a new addition to the GetEQUAL team! Alexx Andersen is GetEQUAL's Field Organizer for North Carolina. Alexx proudly identifies as a transgender, non-binary person of color. Currently, they spend most of their time in classes, studying, and working with GetEqual to build people power in their communities. Alexx got their start by organizing around the fight against House Bill 2 in North Carolina in 2016. Since then, they have organized around the Charlotte Uprising in North Carolina, as well as the Sanctuary City Movement. Alexx also writes a blog addressing many issues, such as white privilege, the disenfranchisement of people of color, and other social issues. Visit Alexx's Medium blog site.