Story by Flonora Merritt. Photo by Flonisha Merritt.
FNN Alumni Bureau JUNE 6, 2014. For about 2 years, I’ve been logging into Boston University Online studying for my Master’s degree in Criminal Justice. On May 17, 2014, I finally walked to receive my diploma. The ceremony was a lovely (but long) event. It took place at Boston University in Agganis Arena. The audience was filled with proud family and friends. The cameras were rolling, the lights were flashing, the graduation music was playing, everyone was cheering, and my feet hurt from wearing high heels. I should have worn flats.
This was truly a once in a lifetime experience, but the journey wasn’t easy. Each class was intense and condensed into seven weeks (usually classes last up 14 weeks). The trip to Boston was the most exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, the train is a great way travel if you don’t have far to go. Sitting seven hours with little leg room, limited snack options and a couple of hours of sleep is not ideal. The only bright side was the view. As the sun rose, so did the beauty of passing cities. I was lucky enough to be awake to see the sunlight bounce off the tall towers in New York. The hotels were very expensive, so my family and I had to hop on the train right after the ceremony was over. But it was all worth it.
I have never been to Boston so I was worried that I might feel out of place. As soon as I got there, I felt right at home. My family and I didn’t get a chance to explore the city. We went straight from the train station to the BU campus. After grabbing a bite to eat, we had to scope out a place to change into our dress clothes. Slipping on my dress and heels, undoing my corn rows, and slapping on some make up (not my best work), I was finally ready to meet my online classmates at the MET Reception. Finally meeting my classmate and professors in person was a delight. To rub elbows with U.S attorneys, police officers, FBI agents and other criminal justice professionals from all over the country was inspiring.
After the reception, all the graduates had to check in at Agganis Arena. Lining up and putting on our caps and gowns took some time. It seem like it took forever for the graduation to start. Finally, we started to walk down to the arena floor. Graduates from many fields of studies and walks of life (sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandmas and grandpas) marched together to celebrate such a great achievement.
As noted in the BU Today newsletter, this was the largest gathering of graduates to date (which explains why the ceremony ran a little over). Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the end of the ceremony. After they called my name, I had to leave. My family and I had less than an hour to change our clothes and catch train back to DC.
Although my visit to Boston was brief, I instantly fell in love into the city. I plan to go back someday and further explore beyond the campus. I am excited that complete my online courses. As they called my name and accepted my master’s degree, I feel that the doors of opportunity are opening for me.
I want to take this time to thank all those who have supported me: my parents for paying for tuition and having my back; my sister Flonisha for inspiring me to go into criminal justice; my boss Ms. Kaufman for giving me a job so I could buy my textbooks and pay for other expenses; The officers and staff at the Sixth District Police Department (where I intern) for being my role models and looking out for me (they also threw a loving party before I left for Boston. The cake was the bomb); and my friends for cheering me on the way.
There are a couple of lessons you can take from this story. One, it’s never too late to get an education. As I mentioned early, people of all ages were graduating. From the perky “twenty somethings” to experienced fifty and sixty year olds, they were all present to get their degrees. For whatever reason…if you can’t go to college now, please know that you have the option to go at a later time. Two, there are many alternatives to obtaining an education. If you can’t afford go full time, you can go part-time online. You can work during the day and study at night. These days more colleges are offering online courses. Now please note that taking online courses is no joke. It takes self-discipline to read the lectures, post on discussion boards and turn in assignments and tests on time. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you follow through to the very end. It’s a reward in itself. All you have to do is BU. (Get it. “Be you”…BU).
Flonora Merritt is an alumnus of Trinity University and Boston University. She is also the current webmaster for Friendship News Network and intern at the Sixth District Police Department in Washington, DC.