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Patricia Duran
Patricia Duran (right), a graduate student, shares how she overcame challenges to become a Greyhound.

I remember walking into my high school guidance counselor's office with my mind made up. For the past two years, I've battled with depression and suicide, I've attended three different high schools and I've moved multiple times. This year, I needed a firm and definite goal which would allow me to excel in all areas of my life despite my freshmen and sophomore years.

I decided that my junior year would be my last year of high school. I was going to do my junior and senior year in one and attend college the following fall on only scholarships. I talked the decision over with my parents, and they both agreed that I needed the change as soon as possible and they were willing to help me with any extra costs for online high school courses.

As I sat down with the counselor and explained my plan, she took a good look at my high school records from the past two years. I went from having a 4.0 GPA to having a 3.0 GPA, which doesn't sound shocking to most, but for someone like me, it was a low point. Even more so, my attendance record destroyed my credibility for the two-years-in-one argument I pitched her. She told me it wasn't possible for me to graduate high school early, let alone have a fighting chance to get into college and receive a scholarship. What I tried to sell her didn't matter because many students sat in her office with the same goal and failed every time. She told me I wouldn't make it.

Initially, bugged by her logical conclusion, I didn't let it defeat me. I did it and I blew a lot of people away who expected me to fall.

I walked across the stage at graduation with a class I didn't grow up with, but with just as many scholarships as the valedictorian had. I raised my GPA from a 3.0 to a 3.67, played varsity golf and varsity softball all year round, and I worked a part-time job. Every weekday for nine months, I did my senior online classes from 6:30- 8 a.m., went to school from 8 a.m.- 3 p.m., had practice from 3:30-6 p.m., worked part time as a hotel clerk from 7-11 p.m. and did homework in between.

I can't even begin to tell you how I made it, and how many colleges took a gamble at accepting my college applications. However, I will tell you that every university I applied for accepted me for admission and each offered me academic scholarships contrary to the records I held.

After graduation, I laid the scholarships from 10 universities (across Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) out on my bedroom floor. Each university had its perks. I had to make a decision, but I kept my thumb on Eastern New Mexico University. I had never visited the campus or Portales, but I knew from reputation that picking this school was a no-brainer and I would be a fool to let this opportunity slip through my fingers.

As I worked hard all year, somehow, Eastern alumni were placed in my path. My softball coach was an alumni and she was one of the main reason I chose here. As a former President's Ambassador, she knew the ins and outs of ENMU. I had never toured campus and only seen pamphlets, but I fell in love with ENMU before I had the chance to tour it because of every story she told me. After everything I had been through, I knew Eastern would take care of me. I knew there would be professors and students who understood failure and understood the fight. I knew they would be willing to give me a shot and more if I chose them.

I registered for my first semester having never toured ENMU, and I showed up at Dawg Days clueless about what was waiting for me.

After five years, I can say every opportunity that Eastern gave me, I used. As I've written before, I graduated summa cum laude and debt-free [because of my scholarships] with my bachelors in May 2016. Right before graduation, I applied for graduate school at ENMU and for the Minority Graduate Fellowship. Every decision about my life and career was waiting on my admission and whether or not I got the fellowship. When I received the letter in the mail, I expected the worst, but the graduate school chose me out of all the applicants to receive this fellowship. As I sat in the graduate dean's office I was floored I was chosen. Eastern certainly took care of me, because I will be graduating debt-free again with my master's degree next May.

Sometimes, people will doubt me, but I know who I am, what I am capable of and the challenges I have to face. Every aspect of my life lined up perfectly when I made up my mind to graduate one year early. Without those challenges which pushed me towards the desire of excellence, I would have never spent every day with former alumni and never fell in love with ENMU.

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