Story by: Audrey Scherer
Photo by: Hailey Tolleson
As she completed her last term at CNM, Laura Harris described her experience as a boat ride.
“You have to get from A to B. You’ll have a bumpy ride in the middle, might feel sick sometimes, and might even want to quit and turn back around, but you know you want to get to the other side,” she said.
“I’m on the other side, now; I made it, no matter how scary it got. I made it.”
Although she was scared at first, she’s learned from her time at CNM that when she puts her mind to something, she can succeed.
She’s been able to keep up not only being a single parent but going to school and keeping her grades up and making sure that her head is above water, “instead of feeling like [she’s] drowning all the time,” she said.
“You can do better in life, no matter where you’re at.”
This is the mindset she had to be in, not only for herself but for everybody around her, she said.
Realizing that she can do it and be the best she can has helped her show her kids that they can do it too, she said.
Laura Harris came to CNM to make a better life for her kids. With no specialized training or degree, it was either wait tables her whole life, or find something to help her set her feet in the ground and become more than a simple minimum wage job, she said.
“I told my boss I’ve got to do something to change,” before she gave her two weeks.
She then went to the random classes at CNM she had signed up for just to make sure she got her feet in the door.
It became less for her kids and more for her as soon as she began.
She felt like she started later than most students at age 27 but going to CNM made her grow up and realize she wasn’t so young anymore, she said.
“That yes, I was an older student going to college, but I had to get my stuff together because if I didn’t, my life was just going to fall apart,” she said.
“I’m not college material whatsoever. I did not want to go to college, but I found my passion after I started.”
She decided to study sociology and criminology to help those who have had prior drug and alcohol problems, and to get at least one person going down the right track, she said.
Sociology classes really hit home for her because she could recognize the connections between what she learned and the things she’s been through, and how people may react differently.
“I think that’s what grasped me first, and then I got that connection of where I wanted to go in the long run,” she said.
It clicked that this is what she wanted to do; not just for herself, but to better her kids’ lives, as well.
Since she started, Harris has gone full-time with an intersession course between each semester, totaling 6 intersessions, she said. The longest she’s had off is the 3-4 days between intersession and regular classes.
In addition, she can’t work when her kids are awake, so for two years straight she has been spending time with her kids in the day and doing homework after they go to bed, even if she had to stay up until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, she said.
She has a 3-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, and her daughter is a lot easier than her 3-year-old, she said.
It was a pleasure to sign up for Phi Theta Kappa because she was proud of her GPA, she said.
It was when signing up for Phi Theta Kappa that she knew she would be setting an example for not just her kids, but other college kids, as well.
Aside from Phi Theta Kappa, Harris didn’t have time for clubs with CNM. This is one of the biggest things about being a parent in school, she said.
If somebody is younger and they want to take advantage of being a part of a club, do it now while you have the chance, she said.
CNM made Harris feel much better about herself.
“I feel that I can succeed now,” she said.
“I’ve accomplished something; I have my feet in the ground and I can say that. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’ve been a waitress;’ I’ve done something,” she said.
“I have a degree up on my wall to say this is me, this is what I’m striving for.”
She starts at UNM for her bachelor’s next semester.
“It’s been a long trek, but it’s worth it,” she said.
CNM classes have made her see the world not only from her perspective but from a broader perspective, and every class opens your mind and has you try something new, she said.
This is another thing that she likes about community college.
“It’s not just straightforward; it’s finding out who are, and where you need to be, and getting your feet set in the right direction before you go to a big college like UNM.”
Harris found the instructors to be very helpful. They are willing to work with you and point you in the right direction, she said.
If you’re honest with them when you don’t know what’s going on, they will give you good criticism on how to better your grade or work, or your understanding in a different way.
“They aren’t just teachers; they’re there to help us succeed in school,” she said.
“I don’t know how many instructors I’ve talked to in the past where I just felt like I was going to fail, and they have uplifted me to make sure that I knew that I was there for a purpose and that I was going to succeed,” she said.
Although she felt her English class was the hardest this semester, she found success by talking to her instructor. On one assignment, after talking with her teacher, she felt she was able to revise with six times more writing with much more detail, she said.
He didn’t tell her what she needed to do, but gave her ideas and pointed her in different directions to show her that she had a choice, she said.
Bad grades start to happen when you stop turning work in and give up on understanding the instructors, she said.
“If you wanted to go to college, keep up the work and keep doing the assignments, no matter how bad you think you did.”
You’re not the one grading your stuff; it’s the instructors- if they can see that you’re trying, that’s all that matters, she said.
When it comes to time management, don’t wait until the last minute, she said.
Setting aside time in the future “never works out that way, ever,” because of things like unexpected family or car problems, she said.
She uses Blackboard and its calendar reminders and found a countdown app for her phone that is like a calendar and allows you to enter assignments with due dates and track how long you have to complete each assignment.
The library has also been a big tool; the people sitting behind the desk can help you find what you need and show you how to best utilize your resources, she said.
You can also go to the ACE tutoring center and talk to the people that are in your class with you.
The instructors and the students around you are what a small community college is for, she said.
“It’s not a big university; we’re supposed to be there to help push each other,” she said. “CNM has strived for me to succeed.”
Harris has found that CNM is more tight-knit, and believes that so many people can pass their classes because they can turn to so many different people.
You just have to keep going, she said. “Never give up; that’s my biggest thing.”
“When you get to that point in the semester when you’re getting to the midterm or even to the final, and you feel like you’re just a failure, and you feel like you’re not gonna make it- don’t quit,” she said. “Try your hardest to keep going.”
She is afraid that, when she goes to UNM, she is not going to know how to find the resources she needs like she can at CNM.
She’s also afraid that that in the bigger classes, she will be left alone to figure it out on her own.
“I’d rather stay at CNM, but it’ll be ok; I’ll find my way,” she said.
Laura Harris is a classmate of the writer.