I'm trying not to count the "lasts" that are slowly but surely happening every day now as I walk around campus at UNC. But yesterday, I couldn't help but count one: the last class of my college experience. It was nothing special, and we didn't do anything crazy or different, but when I walked out of that building, the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Don't get me wrong: I'm not mourning the fact that I won't have to write any more papers or take any more exams after graduation. But getting to go sit in a classroom each day with outstanding professors who teach with passion? That I'm going to miss.
According to UNICEF, more than 124 million students were denied education in 2013. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 80% of kids enrolled in primary schools are expected to reach the last grade. Don't even get me started on how many of these children are girls. Afghanistan boasts the highest rates of gender disparities in primary school enrollment, and although the gap between male and female enrollment in schools is decreasing throughout the world, it's still in the millions. It's right here in the United States, too. North Carolina, the home of the great university that I love, is among the bottom 5 of all 50 states in terms of teacher salary. Comparatively, we have nothing to complain about. But what's reflected here in all of these numbers is that although we believe education should be a human right, we don't support it in the ways that count. There are a million more facts I could share, each one of them disappointing.
So these are the thoughts that clouded my mind as I walked out of my final college class. The odds of me being born into this life, in which I went to elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, are 1 in 400 trillion. How can anyone not reflect on his or her education when you think about these odds? I'm eternally grateful for the opportunities and words of encouragement I have received throughout my life when it comes to learning. I feel that I have a responsibility to carry this gratitude with me every day. We can't be complacent about this, and we can't be apathetic. We can joke about how happy we are to be out of school and done with homework, but we can't ever forget how lucky we are to be graduating with brains full of knowledge and confidence in our ability to take on the world. That's something that a lot of people will never have. We've got to cherish it.