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Good afternoon! According to colleges.

com, the average age of a community


college student in America is 29 years old. I am 14 years older than that average student.
When I enrolled at Chesapeake College at the age of 41, I felt like a dinosaur on my
campus. Several of my classmates assumed I was their professor on the first day of class, not
a fellow student. Some of my classmates had even attended high school with my own
children and could not get past calling me MISS Jacky, instead of just Jacky. I was
significantly older than my classmates and even some of my professors. It was incredibly
isolating.

With that in mind, when considering the question posed: “How would I convince a
nontraditional student to join Phi Theta Kappa based on available member benefits?”, I had
to do some soul searching, being a nontraditional student myself.

My first year of college, I threw myself into the work and tried not to focus on my
otherness. When I received my invitation to Phi Theta Kappa. I was, quite frankly, scared that
it would be 40something year old me in a room full of 19-year-olds that would either ignore
me or expect me to do all the work like in my group projects in my classes.

The ptk.org website told me that becoming a member would open doors to
scholarships, help me hone my job skills, and bolster my academic resume through
recognition. It also promised a community. I was familiar with the faculty advisor, so I went to
see him. I peppered him with questions and everything he said sounded great. So, I
accepted my invitation, paid my dues, and was inducted.

Right away, I was offered an opportunity to function as the Alpha Sigma Pi chapter’s
recording officer. Recording officer, I thought, that’s basically just typing notes, right? I can
find time for that. Then I started attending officers’ meetings.

And I found my people. A room full of bright, motivated people, that saw me for my
knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment, not as a number. My ideas were met with
support, not skepticism. I had a real voice in PTK. I jumped in with both feet.

Because just as college is allowing me to legitimize my professional skillset through a


degree that will open doors for me, PTK has helped me legitimize the organizational skillset
that I’ve been cultivating for several decades. I know how to run an event. I know how to
reach out to community members. Instead of treating me like an outsider, like many of my
fellow students do, my PTK family includes me and they value my contributions and my
experience.

And they GET me. It is amazing to be in an organization of people who understand


opting in to honors contracts and volunteer opportunities and learning experiences, who
understand retaking an exam because you “only” got a 92. We spend so much time in
classes trying to fathom the typical student, who often scrapes by with the bare minimum to
get their grade and get out and misses so much of the value of education.

If I were reaching out to a prospective PTK member that happens to be a


nontraditional student, I would let them know that in PTK we are all nontraditional students.
There is nothing typical about PTK members. We come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and ages.
We are unified by being the above-and-beyonders, we go the extra mile. We aren’t scared
of hard work or adversity or challenges.

Here you are measured by your contribution and your commitment, not your years or
your background. You are supported by fellow scholars that work as hard as you do. You are
pointed toward amazing opportunities by your fellow members and your advisor.

Your achievement is OUR achievement, because we are a family. In PTK we get things
done and we have a lot of fun doing it. We make our campuses better places. We are
prestigious and respected because of our work ethic and our academic achievement. We
will study with you and we will laugh with you, because we are all in this crazy journey
together.

The greatest benefit PTK can offer any student, “traditional” or not, is its members. You
may not be able to total that benefit the same way you can add up scholarships, or
measure lines on a resume, or count medals and awards. But our fellowship, our scholarship,
and our teamwork elevate us all. And that is the best available member benefit Phi Theta
Kappa and my Alpha Sigma Pi chapter can offer to any student.