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  • Blog author Michelle Gomez stands on a park bridge, surrounded by her father, mother, and two younger sisters holding a portrait of her late sister.

    Graduating and Missing a Loved One

    Michelle Gomez

    For any graduating senior who has lost somebody special to them, there's nothing you want more than for that person to be there for when you graduate college. Dealing with the death of a loved one can be particularly difficult for college students – trust me, I know. My sister died during my sophomore year of college. I felt like I was not grieving properly because of the overwhelming energy grief requires on top of the demands of being a student. But I learned that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and I found healthy ways to cope that, in time, renewed me and permitted me to live again with a hole in my heart.

    Milestones can be painful

    Fast forward to 2021 and I’ll be graduating in a few short weeks. Graduating is a HUGE milestone. Whether you’re graduating from middle school, high school, or college - you’ve made it. However, milestones like birthdays and graduation can be painful after someone you love dies. As I graduate from college on May 15th, I am thinking about whether my sister is proud of me and imagining how big her smile would be on my graduation day.

    As this bittersweet chapter of my life ends, the only thing monopolizing my thoughts is knowing that she won’t be there to hug me and say congratulations as I receive my college diploma. It absolutely kills me inside knowing that no matter how much I cry and plea, she isn’t coming back. The worst part is that there's nothing I can do to change that.

    Celebrate with their memory in mind

    Learning how to include my sister when big moments arrive has helped me both celebrate my accomplishments and remember her. I incorporate my sister into my daily life by wearing a bracelet with a charm with her name on it. I wear it every day and whenever I feel sad, I hold it and remember that she is always with me.

    Instead of dwelling about how sad and awful it is without her there, I think of all the happiness graduating brings to me and of all the people that have been there for me. There's nothing I wouldn't do to have my sister there at the end of this journey. But I know in my heart, she has been there every single step. I also know how proud she is of me for everything I've accomplished. I know that she’s truly been my guardian angel and made sure I got to this point. She also left me in great hands because I am loved incredibly by my family and my friends. From my incredible mother and grandmother to my little sisters and best friends, finally to all the people I call my family and friends, I am so blessed.

    Graduating college isn't just for me, it's for them and it's for her.

    Mairim, I love you so much.

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    Mentor Appreciation: Learning from someone who inspires you

    Michelle Gomez

    Sometimes people find their inspiration in places and situations where they least expect it. I found mine at Lone Star Community College in Misty Sabol, my part-time job’s supervisor, International Studies Club advisor, and personal mentor at the time. A thirst for knowledge simply cannot be quenched without the right mentors and without her guidance, I would not be as successful and prepared as I am at this moment, attending the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a scholarship. 

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    Learning through leadership

    Michelle Gomez

    Throughout the experiences I’ve had over the years, I have realized that through helping others I am also helping myself to be a better person for my school, community, and country. Some of my greatest learning experiences occurred outside of the traditional classroom environment via the several officer positions I have held in student organizations. I have worked hard and consistently sought positions of leadership, seizing opportunities to lead and mentor at the forefront.

    Transforming into a leader

    Participation in extracurricular activities not only allows you to give back to the school, but it also allows you to build relationships with people you might not work with otherwise. We can always learn something new from someone else. Transforming into a leader is a rewarding experience, but it also means encountering a host of unanticipated challenges. The added effort of attempting to successfully collaborate with others and the struggle of efficiently managing my time are some of the challenges I have faced as a student leader. 

    Filling a void

    The most significant leadership endeavor I’ve experienced was helping start a new student organization. While enrolled at Lone Star College – University Park (LSC-UP) in Houston, several classmates and I noticed that the campus was lacking an organization where students interested in pursuing a degree in Business could learn about the business world, its different fields, and network with local leaders and other students sharing the same interest. These reasons motivated us to create the Student Business Organization in the Fall semester of 2016. 

    Facing challenges

    The hardest obstacle we encountered was writing the organization’s mandated constitution. We were lacking in guidance, not knowing exactly what we wanted our purpose to be, how often we would meet, or what we would do as an organization overall. Seeking advisers as well as potential and similarly dedicated officers was one of the most tedious processes we encountered. In the end however, the entire process was worth it. Knowing other Business students at LSC-UP would have the opportunity to socialize and have a platform to learn more about their future goals and ambitions brings great satisfaction to me. The Student Business Organization is now one of the most active student organizations on campus, providing students with knowledge in various aspects of essential business principles ranging from interview processes, resume workshop writing, financial planning, and technical skills that students can apply to various aspects of their lives. 

    Making an impact

    As Vice President my responsibilities were primarily focused around organizing events and delegating tasks to other officers. The most significant event I organized was scheduling a team of representatives from a well-known local business to come to campus and host interviews. This event gave students the opportunity to revise their resumes, practice their interview skills, and receive feedback from employers, as well as the chance to get hired on the spot. 

    Moving forward in leadership

    The leadership experience I gained through the Student Business Organization taught me invaluable lessons. It enriched my life with friends and experiences that I will cherish for years to come, illustrating the importance of teamwork, understanding and cooperation in tough situations. Above all, it showed me that belief in oneself can work wonders, even while facing the most daunting of challenges.  Being a leader in an organization has been so imperative in my time in college. I’ve carried these lessons learned with me as I continue my education at the University of North Carolina. I highly encourage you to take a step and gain experience by not only joining a student organization, but also taking on a leadership role. You will grow in it. It is something you won’t regret.


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    Handling Grief and Loss in College

    Michelle Gomez

    College life at any four-year university is a tough time for any student. Meeting the demands of professors, keeping a high GPA, paying for tuition, getting that internship or full-time job are some of the few things that are floating through the minds of college students. Now imagine a college experience where these factors as well as the loss of a loved one come into play. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many students, including myself. 

    Grief, although a natural part of life, is a topic most people avoid. I used to as well, until my 17-year-old sister died in a car accident in December 2018. One second, I was doing everything right, leading an ordinary life with my friends and family. Then, in the blink of an eye everything changed. Life as I knew it was broken and it just didn’t make sense anymore. Anger, confusion, and sadness suffocated me until I couldn’t really feel anymore. Dealing with the death of a loved one can be particularly difficult for college students, especially if they are away from home – trust me, I know. I felt like I was not grieving properly because of the overwhelming energy grief requires on top of the demands of attending classes, focusing on homework and participating in the social life that college offers. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, consider these suggestions of healthy ways to cope that, in time, can renew you and permit you to move on.

    Take care of yourself

    Get plenty of rest, eat well, exercise and do anything else to stay in the best physical and emotional shape possible. When you’re grieving, it’s very easy to get sick and let your health decline. While you can’t control your circumstances, you can always control yourself and what you do. 

    Take steps to find support

    Reach out to those who can help you. You may have a classmate or roommate who will be glad to listen and comfort you. Take advantage of your school’s counseling services. Even if you decide counseling isn’t right for you, they will be able to suggest other forms of coping with your loss. Talking to anyone helps alleviate the feeling that you’re alone.

    Deal with your academic life

    Depending on your academic goals and mindset, immersing yourself in school might help. Be careful not to use academics as a means of hiding from your tragedy, but it might work as a short-term way of coping.