Finals were over and all that was left for Dominique Moore to do was walk across the stage at Mt. Hood Community College and accept her Associate of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. She hadn’t thought about graduation day and on the spot she tried to gather her thoughts. “Don’t trip. It’s a big deal. This is the big leagues! I don’t know if I can answer that one?” said Moore. Vagueness aside, earning her diploma was the culmination of two and a half years of hard work, growth, and a second chance she didn’t mess up.
Getting back to college was the goal because her first attempt didn’t go well. She attended right after high school and admits she wasn’t as committed as she should’ve been. Moore liked the idea of college, but wasn’t really into the studying aspect of going to school. “I was just going through the motions. I did two terms and then failed out,” said Moore. She wanted a career in law enforcement and a meeting with a Job Corps Admissions Counselor showed her how she could do get there.
Initially, she wasn’t interested in attending Job Corps. “The longest I’d been away from home was two weeks when I went to stay with a friend,” said Moore. She had family, friends, and horses she didn’t want to leave behind. But the longer she listened to her Admissions Counselor, the better the program sounded. She picked a trade, Protective Services, and a campus, Springdale. She also learned that Springdale had a college program and that sealed it for Moore. She set three goals: become Captain in Protective Services, earn Platinum in the level system, and get into college. “I knew right away I was going to do those things. Once I settled in, I was the goody two-shoes,” said Moore.
On an overcast Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College, Moore sat next to friends from the Criminal Justice program. They are all smiles as they wait for their row to be called. These students shared more than just the same major. “The trippiest thing, I found out we were all first generation graduates. We bonded over that and that was really cool,” said Moore. The significance of what was about to happen clicked. “This WAS a big deal,” said Moore. “My brother brought up that I’m the first in my family to finish. I’m showing my mom I can do things on my own, and I’m the first of the kids to get a degree. Having that hanging over my head helped me get through school.”
It was finally her rows turn to start walking towards the stage. By this point, her nerves have completely taken over. “I feel my heart start pounding and my legs feel like they are going to give out,” said Moore. “I’m wearing heels and thinking ‘I can’t fall right now.’” Her next move was calming, though. Moore looked for her family in the crowd and locked eyes with her mom. “I tell her I’m scared,” said Moore. “She says ‘you’re ok, you’re beautiful, and you’ve got this!’ I carried that with me while I walked on stage.”
The student who admitted that school was never her thing received her diploma and walked back to her seat. She was beaming and she was a graduate. “I have two moms and I always joke about a mom sandwich. When we hugged, I had a mom on each side of me. One telling me she’s so proud and I’m so beautiful and the other mom telling me how proud she is,” said Moore. “That was the best thing ever and I started crying even harder. I knew I shouldn’t have worn make-up!”
Her efforts at Springdale and in college taught her that she could accomplish goals on her own, overcome adversity and advocate for herself. “I am also setting a good example for younger siblings,” said Moore. “I am glad I pushed through it and finished because I didn’t think I’d get to this spot!”