The Power of the Underdog

Coleen_Gabhartby Coleen Gabhart
Student, Lafayette campus

“I’m a single mom. I’m trying to raise my son while at the same time, working to pay my bills. Sometimes my phone gets shut off. Sometimes I want to just give up.”

This is a fairly common story in our city of Lafayette, but it’s what this woman says next that sets her apart from many.

“I’m an Ivy Tech student, trying to get my associates degree so that I can give my son and I a future with opportunities.”

It’s stories like this one that make me proud to be an Ivy Tech student. When I was trying to decide where to go to college, I was looking at things like rankings, athletic opportunities, and most importantly, scholarships. No one ever told me that I would learn so much more from being in close quarters with people who were struggling, who found it to be a challenge to go to college for social or economic reasons, people who had fought the odds and had won.

Ivy Tech has a lot of other benefits too, like small class sizes and professors that know each student by name, lower costs and a smaller campus. But it’s the atmosphere of challenge that inspires me each day to keep going. My peers at large, four year institutions loudly complain about their problems, which could be described as “first world problems,” like the fact that they have to wait for the bus or they don’t like the food at the cafeteria, or the best one, they are so tired from partying and they still have to go to class. Compare this to the unspoken struggles of Ivy Tech students, who have to consider whether they can afford to stay enrolled and feed their family at the same time, who will care for their children while they’re attending classes and how they will get transportation to and from campus.

While these major, real life problems cause some Ivy Tech students to drop out, those who remain have the opportunity to become highly successful because of the “underdog” atmosphere. The power of the underdog was described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “David and Goliath.”

In an interview in 2014 with Anderson Cooper, he says “When you’re an underdog you’re forced to try things you never would have attempted.” Because going to college isn’t a given for Ivy Tech students, they become powerful overcomers. Many pride themselves on getting good grades, shooting for an A instead of a C. Some Ivy Tech students have founded their own businesses, started non-profits, and have made a difference in their community.

In honor of Community College Month, I’d like to celebrate these overcomers that we call Ivy Tech students. When I decided to attend Ivy Tech first instead of going straight to a university, I wasn’t sure I was making the right choice, but after just nearly two semesters, I am confident in my choice because I love being surrounded by fellow students who fight for what they want and when they are told no, or get knocked down by life, they get back up again every time.

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