Graduation a hard-won goal for many students

College is often a trial by fire for young adults who are faced with the emotional challenges and the financial and time constraints of living on their own and attending school full-time.

When seniors don caps and gowns this week for commencement, the achievements they are recognized for will not just be good grades or community service. It will also be the

culmination of dreams, desires and inner strength finally paying off.

“”The hardest thing I had to get through was in October 2005, when my mom passed away,”” said Alicia Alvarado, a political science senior.

Alvarado was making her way through college when her mom was suddenly diagnosed with cancer and died four weeks later.

She took off the rest of that fall semester and returned months later during the spring.

“”It was hard at first, and I wasn’t motivated,”” Alvarado said. “”Eventually, it helped me to cope; it kept me busy.””

Alvarado said that although she is sad her mother will not see her graduate, she knows graduation would have made her mother happy.

Other students found ways to stay

focused at the UA with support from people they trust.

“”I had really good friends and a really great support system, and that’s what made (college) so easy,”” said Michelle Wiening, a psychology senior.

Wiening also credited a campus minister she met when she first came to UA for helping her through.

Another student said natural science classes were a particularly difficult aspect of college.

“”I seriously think that is the hardest part about U of A is staying awake through gen eds,”” said Brandon Dow, a philosophy and political sciences senior.

Graduating seniors also faced financial challenges.

“”I had to pay for everything by myself and do everything by myself,”” said Samantha Willey, a sociology senior. “”Navigating through the bureaucracy of UA was kind of difficult.””

Willey said she was forced to learn how to juggle two jobs along with a full-time school schedule and she still had to take out student loans.

“”I found it almost easier, because I had less time to be lazy and it pushed me to work harder,”” Willey said.

The adjustment of moving away from home and learning to live on her own was the most difficult part for her.

“”I am really close to my mom. She just wanted me to learn independence and how to take care of myself,”” Willey said. “”I am actually pretty thankful that I had to do it.””