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This post was written by Misty Gardner, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship, and representative on the Student Association.

Achieving Goals, One Cliché at a Time
This week, I will graduate from the City University of New York, School of Professional Studies with a B.A. in Psychology. Exactly twenty years ago, in the spring of 1997, I graduated from high school. Twenty years, an Associate’s degree, five colleges, and four degree program changes later I will finally achieve my goal of having completed my Bachelor’s degree. As is the case with so many of my fellow students at CUNY SPS, my journey has been a long one and I have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Baby steps
When you want something, you have to set goals. Once you have identified a goal, put it in place and commit to achieving it. Set it, and forget it. Often, looking at the big picture leaves you feeling overwhelmed and this can discourage you from even taking the first step. No one gets from point A to point B in one step. Set your goal and then set about achieving it, one step at a time. For me, this began with filling out the application for CUNY SPS. I didn’t know if I had the time, I didn’t know if I had the energy, and I didn’t know how I would afford it. It took a bit of a leap of faith; I’d just have to figure it out when I crossed those bridges. And that’s what I did. I took it one semester at a time, one week at a time. I didn’t qualify for financial aid so I worked to get the best grades I could manage, one assignment at a time, so that I might be eligible for scholarships. Little by little, I did the best I could, focusing on each task at hand. I stopped letting the big picture overwhelm me and I got it done… one step at a time. It doesn’t matter how far you are from your goal right now, moving forward is always better than standing still.

The comfort zone
I can accredit the length of my journey, in large part, to fear. A career in the field that I am most interested requires an advanced degree. The idea of pursuing such a degree seemed just a bit too ambitious and I really wasn’t sure if I could even do it. Well, growth is often uncomfortable. Positive changes are hard to come by without doing something different and “different” is often scary. You must step out of that comfort zone. When your mind says, “I can’t do it,” do it anyway. This negative self-talk is deceitful and it will hold you back. At first, you will just have to ignore it and this will be uncomfortable. Once you begin to surprise yourself with what you are actually capable of (and you will), you will begin to challenge these thoughts. After a while you realize that “I can’t do it” has been replaced with “I’ve got this”. When you’ve given yourself this gift of confidence, obstacles are much easier to overcome.

It takes a village
Of course, getting to this point would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, if it weren’t for the support of others. My family has supported me in every way. They have been my inspiration to keep going, especially during the times that I wasn’t sure if I could. The faculty, staff, and my fellow students at CUNY SPS (some of whom I now call friends) have been instrumental in my success here by offering support, reassurance, or even an occasional needed laugh. In addition to allowing me to focus on my studies, no longer having to worry about tuition, having been chosen as a recipient of the ACE Scholarship has provided so many positive experiences, inspiring me to be my best possible self. This opportunity would not exist without the generosity of benefactor, Alan Fishman. We all have people that help drive us, supporting our efforts to grow. These are the people that push us to keep going when we are at our weakest and inspire us to pay it forward. Take the time to appreciate these people as they are a part of your journey; a part of who you are and who you will become.

The light at the end of the tunnel
As I close this chapter and move on to my next goal of obtaining my Master’s degree, I look back on this experience in awe. It certainly wasn’t easy but I worked hard and committed to finally achieving this goal, regardless of the obstacles that stood in my way. Not only did I get it done, I did so with straight A’s and I earned a full-tuition scholarship; all while being a full-time working wife and mother of three young children. I move forward with so much more than a Bachelor’s degree. Because of my experiences at CUNY SPS, I have grown to be a better version of myself. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d ever get here, but here I am… and if I can do it, anyone can.

Misty Gardner is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Psychology degree program on May 31, 2017.

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How many fellow CUNY SPS-ers are going to be graduating this upcoming May 18?

Commencements may only happen a few times over a lifetime for each of us. Often the ceremony is meant for the family and friends to watch the accomplishment of the students who are walking the ceremony. This is a journey that can take a traditional route from high school or it can be a non-traditional route. For a majority of CUNY School of Professional Studies students, this journey is completed online and may be a physical trip that happens or is skipped. Behind the scenes, the process of preparing for the ceremony is definitely months in advance.

I wanted to at least walk people through a meaningful activity I did this past year when I walked for my graduate certificate in Disability Studies, and that is the process of decorating a mortarboard. It is my belief that one does not have to be artistically gifted, since there are ready-made kits that are being sold at crafting and arts supplies stores. But the benefits of decorating a board are (1) a good photo prop, (2) you can show off the fact that you’re graduating, (3) it is a mental mind activity of prepping for the ceremony, and (4) blinging up a drab black gown. The memories that can be built on crafting a mortarboard are nice! Plus it is also good to meet up with classmates and fellow graduates to make memories. The only downside I see to this activity is $$$ and time investments.

Graduation Cap Decorated

So, last year, a few alumni got together in the lobby, and brought their own supplies to decorate their mortarboards with. I did my cap independent of that group, but being a representative on the Student Association this year I had hoped that people who are going to be graduating would want to do this activity again. I have every intentions of doing the same activity when I walk again for my masters in 2018. As I have been speaking with Anthony Sweeney, Virtual Campus Coordinator about doing this activity again for class of 2017 graduates. So this is what I propose, on May 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 – graduating class members can bring your own supplies to decorate your mortarboard with. We will be having limited supplies and food also available. RSVP here if you want to join us!

So even if you’re not going to make it to campus at CUNY SPS, I suggest this as an activity you can do with your family, friends or by yourself. I stress to please do a draft and/or dry run for what you want to put on your cap. Decorate your cap considering how you are going to be wearing the cap. So your motor cap should be on a diamond shape, not necessarily a square. Do not rush to stick things on your one cap!

These are art supplies that I suggest, and this is not a complete list or the absolute list that your cap has to have. Last year I made up my cap with the art supplies I have from my other projects, so I only spent about $20 for extra supplies. I used scrap paper, origami paper, index cards, ribbon and stickers. You will be wearing your cap during the ceremony, and an important advice I suggest is to have the items on firmly, that way there is no cap malfunction. That was my fear last year when I didn’t have a hot glue gun.

I pulled everything off my graduation cap after the ceremony was over, because my second CUNY SPS graduation is forthcoming. Enough about me! For people graduating, this is an activity that is a good building one for the crafters in us! Reflect on what pulled you through to graduation, find that special saying, and thank the people you want. You are the main character of this ceremony in world that you inhabit. If there’s any questions, or inspirations, there are plenty of videos on YouTube, photos on Pinterest, etc.

  • 12×12 Cardstock scrap paper of any type. This may be a backdrop for your embellishments.
  • Embellishments—sequins, rhinestones, glitter, gems, letters
  • Stickers
  • Ribbon
  • Hot glue gun or other sticky adhesive tools
  • Fabric paint
  • Stencils

Linda Yau is a native New Yorker. She is currently completing her MS Disability Services in Higher Education. She is constantly on the move, but on her downtime, she hearts folding origami. She is an assistant organizer of  OMG-NYC (Origami Meetup Group in NYC)

Dear Fellow CUNY SPS Students,

I wanted to say thank you to all the wonderful students, faculty and staff who I’ve had the privilege to learn from and work with these last few years.  I owe much to this school and the relationships I’ve formed here.

I am also deeply honored to have been elected to and serve upon the first Student Association here at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  Thank you for voting me into this position.  Indeed, I am grateful to have worked alongside my Student Association colleagues.  Being a member of the Student Association is an endeavor I hope all of you will get to experience.

While I am happy to be graduating at the end of this semester, I am sorry to be leaving this school and the many people who have supported me here.  This also means that I must leave the Student Association (along with my awesome colleagues; Linda Y., Misty G. and Jacqueline R. who are also graduating or otherwise ineligible to run).

However, there are three members of the association who are still eligible to run again and having witnessed their hard work and dedication to what we’ve begun; I would like to endorse the candidacies of Shakima Williams, Yvette Humphries and Leonard Blades.

It is my hope that their re-election will help to establish the Student Association as an inclusive and hardworking representation of the students at CUNY SPS and dedicated to supporting and helping as many students as is possible.  Indeed, I expect that many of the initiatives we’ve put into place and the initiatives that future SA representatives will put into place, will support the students of CUNY SPS for years to come.

Let me express my thanks to my classmates, my Student Association colleagues and the faculty and staff at CUNY SPS for their friendship and support as I finish this chapter of my life.

Sincerely,

Daniel K. Chan

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.