First-Generation College Student Wins SSC Essay Contest

Seminole State College Student Support Services hosted a variety of activities recognizing first-generation students last week. The event concluded with an essay contest on Friday, Nov. 20. The theme of the essay was “I Am First-Gen and I Am Exceptional.”

SSC Student Tema Yargee, of Okemah, won the contest and a $50 prize. Yargee is a sophomore at SSC and is majoring in Criminal Justice. Her essay is included below:

My Journey as a First-Generation Student by Tema Yargee

            I have learned the values of determination and perseverance throughout my whole life. I have used these skills to become academically successful. I have a birth injury called Erb’s Palsy. I spent most of my early life in physical therapy. I can still remember how tedious and frustrating the exercises were and how I would always want to give up. However, when I was in middle school, I became intrigued with basketball and wanted to join my middle school basketball team. This meant I would have to strengthen my arm enough to play normally and to get my mom’s approval.

SSC Student Tema Yargee (left) is named the winner of the “I Am First-Gen and I Am Exceptional” essay contest. She receives her prize from her Student Support Services Advisor Laura Votaw.

At last, I reached my goal through weeks of therapy and being committed to doing my exercises at home. I was able to play with the other girls and this brought me a sense of joy that I would have never been able to feel if I had given up. From this experience, I learned an important lesson of hard work and to keep trying and working towards my goal, even if it feels hopeless. This kind of mindset helped me when I was taking my college math class. I failed my first math test with a D, and I was very disappointed in myself. Nevertheless, I refused to fail the next test, and I planned to become better prepared for the second one. I spent hours and hours doing the same type of math problem until I could figure it out. I spent late nights in front of my computer watching YouTube videos showing me how to solve the problems. I also asked for help from the tutors in the SSS lab. I am happy to say that I never flunked another math test.

Next, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life in my freshman year at Seminole State College. I enrolled in 6 classes for my first semester as a full-time college student and I accepted a job as a work-study. I felt very overwhelmed from the stress of finishing assignments for my classes and having to do work-study. I wanted to withdraw from one of my classes when I could not keep up with it because of how much time it demanded, but I am a very stubborn person. I refused to let my transcript have a W for my first freshman semester. As a result, I had to sacrifice my social life and weekends from watching basketball games and other activities and instead dedicate it to my studies. This semester was the toughest and most draining one I have ever had to endure, but I would have to say that I am very proud of how I was able to overcome it. In the end, I was able to do well in all my classes.

All in all, I believe I am an exceptional first-generation student from overcoming the obstacles in my academic career with the determination and persistence I learned from the challenges in my life. I hope to continue to use these lessons to do well in my future classes and when I transfer to a four-year university. Truthfully, there are some days where I wish I had been born without Erb’s Palsy and had a regular right arm. My right arm is still weak, and I struggle to use it fully. However, I will never regret the lessons it taught me of determination in my years of physical therapy and I will carry them in my life as a college student.