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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.