When I first received the email this past summer to join an early college program that would provide support before freshman orientation, I was more than hesitant. I already had a job lined up until the day before I would leave for my college journey; why would I risk the extra hundred dollars for 12 more days in Galesburg, IL.? Still, the day before the due date for the SPARK Summer Bridge Program application, I was unsure but I decided to turn in my forms anyway. I had absolutely no idea what this 12-day program would provide me with, and when I received my acceptance letter to the program in early July, I was filled with a range of questions. Should I be nervous about the classes that are required through the course? What if I don’t get along with the other SPARK members? I was filled with anxiety and excitement at the same time.
When late August rolled around and I made my way into Galesburg with my family, I quickly wanted to turn back. I wanted to wait until orientation, or maybe not come to Knox at all. I received the schedule for the upcoming days and learned that during this program, I would be introduced to the campus and faculty slowly, as well as take two different academic classes to help me blend into the college life a bit smoother than I would have if I was just going to the new student orientation.
The first three days of SPARK were literally some of the hardest days I have ever encountered. It was filled with forced activity that I would much rather pass on. I did not believe whatsoever that these students would accept me into their groups since that had never happened to me before in my hometown. I missed my family and my friends. I didn’t have any intentions to give this program a chance. But when I finally started to come outside of my new dorm to spend extra time with the other 27 students playing games in Taylor Lounge, or to make pancakes in the basement of Sherwin, I realized that the other students were just as unsure as I was.
The classes threw homework at us right away, introducing me to late nights writing papers, and on top of that, I learned that other people wanted to study with me. When I was invited to join the group at a sushi place in town (and this was not on the syllabus), I was overjoyed that they wanted me there with them.
Over the course of the next week, I learned so much, not only about Knox and what it has to offer, but also about myself, race, academics, identity, and my new friends. When the days before the rest of campus would show up crept up onto us, we were worried. We didn’t know what was going to happen to our close knit family when we were forced with other students and new challenges.
Throughout orientation and onward though, we have stayed close. We often are seen eating meals together or studying in the library. Even with our new friends and homework load, SPARK has proved itself a significant part of my time at Knox, so significant that some of my best friends were there with me. If it weren’t for that experience, I don’t know how I would be handling my first trimester of college. I am, and will always be, thankful for those 12 days of forced activity and discomfort, because without it, I would not have met some of the most wonderful people I have ever come into contact with.