As a newcomer to UWT, I’m already incredibly proud to call myself a Husky. Yet, there seems to be an unspoken prejudice in higher education. A friend who still goes to high school recently asked me the following question: “At UWT, are you surrounded by people who are like, 40 or 50?”
The malignant and offensive nature of that question left me in an awkward position. I didn’t quite know how to respond because while the insult wasn’t directed at me personally, I still found it to be hurtful to my fellow Huskies. In the meantime, it brings to light the issue of stereotypes against older adults who attend college.
College is among one of the most diverse places I have ever been a part of in terms of ethnicities, nationalities, and ages. In high school, I called all of my fellow classmates my peers because we came from similar backgrounds and grew up in the same time period. Yet, here at the UWT, that’s no longer the case.
In one of my classes, I sat next to a gentleman who has been a father for several years. In the library, I shared a table with a lady who was old enough to be my mom. At the gym, I worked out with a tall man who once served in our military. In the hallway, I walked side-by-side with a kind woman who already has several grandchildren.
This is what moves me, inspires me, and allows me to enjoy deep, meaningful conversations. A lot of these older students have much more life experience than I do. They’ve seen more than I have. And while they may have more financial and family responsibilities than I do, they still have the willingness to share their life lessons with me. But perhaps most remarkably, they still have the willingness to put themselves in a place that is considered to belong to the young exclusively.
What makes the UWT exceptional is that we have got a great number of students who are returning to school after years of being away, whether they be military personnel or professionals working towards expanding their career. Many of them work full-time jobs, commute long distances, or have children to take care of.
So, why are they here? They are here because they understand that when times change, so must they. They understand that they are in the midst of a fast-paced world and that in order to keep up, they must adapt. It’s sink or swim.
No matter how old we are, learning is a never-ending journey. Don’t judge a student by how old he or she is. Don’t say that a grandma can’t be one of us here at college. Don’t say that a dad can’t be part of our educational institution. They have come so far and accomplished so much, and they don’t deserve to be judged for it.
The bottom line is that your age should never be a factor when it comes to overcoming obstacles and acquiring new skill sets.