Story 9 of 20: What Motivates Me by Kaitlyn Ceaser
We first met Kaitlyn when she was a senior in high school. She worked closely with Umoja’s Social Emotional Learning staff and through Senior Seminar, she learned a couple of valuable lessons, which proved to be fundamental in navigating through the overall college process. In the ninth story in our 20 stories for 20 years series, Kaitlyn shares what motivates her as she prepares to graduate from college next year.
Before getting involved with Umoja, I had a few ideas on what I wanted to do after graduation. I thought that I wanted to go to college, but I did not completely understand the steps and tools needed to become successful. I had goals but I was too afraid to try to accomplish them. I was good at speaking up for things I wanted, but I did not take actions to get them. I was driven—I knew that I needed to be the difference for my nieces and nephews, but it was not easy for me to ask for help when I needed it. I honestly had no idea what was in store for me after graduation.
It wasn’t until my senior year that I took college seriously. I think the most special thing about Umoja is having the Senior Seminar class in high school. The class mattered to me the most because I was able to get assistance when it came to FAFSA, filling out college applications, and choosing a school that was the best for me. I was grateful enough to receive the greatest support from the Umoja staff member. Without them, I would have had no idea who I could run to the outside of my family when I needed help or advice. Umoja pushed me to be the best I could be and to not be afraid of challenges. Umoja strengthened me to become more outgoing and stand up for things that I believe in.
I was the first in my family to attend a four-year university, and I am now a graduating senior at Hampton University. After graduation, I will move to Texas where I have accepted a position with Teach for America as an elementary school teacher (Kaitlyn shared with us four years ago that children hold a special place in her heart and that she was interested in pursuing a degree in Elementary Education). I have become adventurous, outgoing, a go-getter, independent, and a very active person in my community. I had no idea that I would become this person, but I am growing and evolving more and more every day. What motivates me to get up every day is knowing my dad is watching over me so proud (Kaitlyn lost her father suddenly this spring). It motivates me to push myself and to imagine he is still here with me. It’s not easy losing your dad/best friend at 20 years old, so I decided to turn it into something positive—to never give up, no matter how hard things may become.