Commencement speaker overcomes obstacles


By STEVI BRESHEARS,  Editor-in-Chief |

As the semester winds down, many students are struggling to find the motivation to keep working hard. For commencement speaker Alicia Morin, however, persistence is the only option.

“I’ve got to keep going, even when I don’t want to,” she said.

It is this drive and determination that set Morin apart from other students.

“She was recommended by faculty who commended her hard work, collaborative spirit with her peers and her joyful approach to learning,” Amarillo College president Russell Lowery-Hart said. “When I spoke with her, I was struck by her journey, and the power and hope she found in education and, in particular, at Amarillo College.”

Morin’s educational journey has not been an easy one. She finished high school in 1999, but because she was unable to pass the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test, she didn’t get to walk the stage and get her diploma until 2003. It wasn’t until several years later when she had her son, Kingston, that she decided to continue to pursue an education by enrolling herself in cosmetology school.

Morin graduated successfully from Wade Gordon and started working there, but quickly realized she wasn’t making it.

“I just woke up one day and I was waiting tables, I was cutting hair, I didn’t have a 401K, I didn’t have insurance and I was tired of struggling,” she said.

Morin made the decision that she wanted to move to Austin, with no plans of returning to her hometown of Amarillo. She knew that to do that, she needed to go to school. At the age of 35, she enrolled in classes at Amarillo College, unsure of what she wanted to do. That changed, however, after taking a few tests in her learning frameworks class. Soon, she discovered her passion for speech language pathology and caring for patients.

“I want to be a part of the diagnosis, and if they want the cochlear implant I want to be a part of that and a part of them hearing for the first time,” she said.

Morin said that she also dreams of being able to translate for bands at music festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest, but that isn’t her main career goal.

After making this discovery, Morin had the opportunity to job-shadow with Amarillo College sign language interpreter Julie Seals. Morin sat with Seals Monday through Thursday, and Seals gave her extra assignments for practice.

“She took me to the grocery store and taught me how to sign the names of vegetables, and bought me groceries,” Morin said. “She didn’t get paid to help me, but she did.”

Morin said this type of generosity and the many resources the college has to offer, particularly the Advising and Resource Center, are a big part of why she hasn’t given up.

After graduation, Morin will transfer to West Texas A&M University in the spring and begin the speech language pathology program in the fall.

“I want a lakehouse,” she said, adding that she wants space for her parents to be able to live with her so she can take care of them. “I want that, and I can’t get that with just an associate degree.”

Morin said that despite her extremely driven nature, she sometimes struggles with her purpose. However, learning about things like cells in anatomy and physiology has helped put things into perspective.

“If the Lord created something so small to have a job, and to have a purpose, that if something in there failed it could be catastrophic for the cell, then who are we to question ours?” she said.

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