Horatio Alger wrote stories about youngsters who overcame adversity and succeeded in life though hard work, virtue and perseverance.
Aubrey Pace, 20, of Stowe, was awarded a scholarship by the Horatio Alger Association, a foundation named for the 19th century author because she embodies the characteristics Alger incorporated into his tales of triumph through unyielding perseverance and basic moral principles.
Pace graduated from Pottsgrove High School in June 2011 and immediately began studies at Millersville University in the fall. But her family was unable to afford the tuition for a second semester.
“Of course, I did not let that stop me,” Pace said. “It was decided that I would have to attend Montgomery County Community College to pursue an associate’s degree. Then, I would hopefully be back on my feet to pay for a bachelor’s degree.”
The transition from a university education to a community college education was not the setback she expected.
“I wish I would have known in high school what I know now about post-secondary education. If I had known, I would have immediately begun my studies at the College. It is just so much better for any student who cannot manage financially. I chose Montgomery County Community College to make college more affordable and be able to continue pursuing my dreams. It has turned out to be a completely successful experience,” Pace said.
Pace works for the Pottsgrove School District as a duty aide, monitoring elementary school students during lunch and recess every day. “I also hold a second job as an online tutor in the area of English: Essay Writing for Tutor.com,” she said.
“There are countless important experiences I have had or lessons I have learned while at the College. Many people I have known tend to view community college negatively, as if it is a sad excuse for an education. After being able to experience both worlds, I can tell you this: Montgomery County Community College has provided me with, by far, the best post-secondary experience yet,” Pace said. “I have felt more challenged. I felt inspired and wanting to know more about a class lesson. I would come home with more homework than I did at MU, and I even have a better GPA now. Again, it was not like the work was easier—I was coming home with way more work!”
Pace has the benefit of financial aid, as well as scholarships she has earned. “I have state grants, Pell grants, and loans. I was awarded in high school with a scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association. In addition, I have earned the Round the Town Scholarship from the College for the current school year,” she said.
“Ultimately, affordable tuition was my entire reason for attending Montgomery County Community College,” Pace said. “It has helped my household to send me to college comfortably. It has been a huge transition from attending university as far as cost goes. Since West Campus is down the street from me, that also helped a lot with the cost. I am even taking in all online courses now, so that helps even more with cost (no commute!).”
But Pace’s adversity started long before her freshmen year of college.
In her own words (from her Horatio Alger essay): “My birth father left my mother when she was two months pregnant with me. He never even asked her what my name was. He has never attempted to contact me or offer any financial support in all of my 18 years of life.
“My mother struggled with being a teenage mother. My birth father and grandparents abandoned her. When I was nine years old, my mother was working three jobs. She suffered a mental breakdown caused by overworking, as well as stressing out about raising a child on insufficient income.
“The man my mother married did not finish high school, obtain a GED, or go to college. He has a struggling towing business, with a 1983 flatbed that continuously breaks down.”
These hardships and struggles did not daunt Pace. They inspired her.
“I am inspired to do better by starting my life with a college education, stability, and working towards my dream as a teacher. After witnessing all that my parents have experienced, I have known nothing less than to strive for success.”
Pace is striving for success as a sophomore at Montgomery County Community College, who plans to transfer to either West Chester University or Kutztown University in 2013 to pursue a degree in education. After graduating, Pace intends to follow her dream of becoming an English/Language Arts and Reading educator.
From adversity, Pace has forged success in college, where she was praised for her best efforts based on her potential. “I applied for scholarships with a wish that someone would understand my involvement in and love for academics (especially as an aspiring teacher!)—and maybe, just maybe, that someone would see that there was more to me than my grade point average or class rank,” she said.
“With the abandonment by my birth father, I am motivated to be a better person. By witnessing my family’s financial issues and struggles, I am motivated to pursue and complete a college degree, simply so I do not end up in the same situations,” Pace said. “I am determined to live a happy, stress-free, successful lifestyle, starting with a college education.
~ by Neree Aron-Sando