Courtesy: Iman Palm
Iman with her father, sister and mother.

I wouldn’t have pursued a college degree without my dad.

His encouragement and advice helped me graduate from California State University, Long Beach, in May. He’s the one who pushed me to do my absolute best in school. We all need a support system, and I’m thankful my dad is a part of mine.

My mom, aunts and grandmother have helped me through every challenging journey I’ve encountered so far. My father, however, is my biggest cheerleader when it comes to education.

One of my earliest childhood memories involves a conversation I had with my dad. He wanted to talk to me about my future. I was 5.

I remember making room for his 6-foot-2 muscular frame on my Strawberry Shortcake-themed twin-size bed.  We were surrounded by four bright pink painted walls with pictures of Barbie dolls and Kim Possible plastered everywhere. He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up: I told him I had my sights set on becoming a doctor.

“If you want to be a doctor, you will have to go to college,” he responded with a serious look on his face. I said “sure” without giving it much thought because I wanted to resume playing with my Barbie dolls.

My father randomly checked in with me throughout my high school years to make sure I was still interested in attending college. I never deferred from the plan I agreed to when I was 5. When I reached 13, however, I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. So, my dad helped me identify other interests that could be turned into a career.

I joined the newspaper staff at my high school as a freshman out of curiosity. I remember smiling ear-to-ear as my teacher explained what journalism was and what our jobs would be as campus reporters. And I re-explained everything to my dad later that evening, and we ended up spending time researching prospective journalism schools.

I started studying journalism at Cal State Long Beach in 2019 while classes were still in-person, but spent my junior and senior years taking classes online from my kitchen table because of the pandemic.

Taking classes online and then having to jump in the car and race to my job as an essential worker at Whole Foods Market was stressful.

One day I snapped from the pressure.

I had to edit two hours of footage for a broadcast journalism assignment, and my computer wouldn’t download the software I needed because it lacked storage space. I hunched over my laptop for an hour trying to delete unnecessary files to download the software. I was pressuring myself to finish the assignment before I went to work, but when my boyfriend arrived to take me to work the software still hadn’t been installed. I was on the brink of tears.

As we drove to Whole Foods, my dad called and immediately knew I was upset by the way I said “hello.” I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I answered anyway because I didn’t want to ignore my dad.

We talked about why I was so stressed. He told me to give myself a break and not let one assignment defeat me. He reminded me to make my mental health a priority. I listened to his deep voice and soaked in his advice. I stepped away from the assignment until the next day. By deadline, all the editing kinks had been resolved, and I received an A.

My dad taught me how to calm down and not let a minor situation snowball into a major one. He showed me how to keep things in perspective when needed. He taught me how to encourage myself when he couldn’t be there to help.

I can’t imagine being in college without my dad. His presence in my life showed me how important having a mentor is. We all need someone to encourage, guide and support us when life seems too difficult.

Not every student has a parent to turn to. But every student can find someone who can be a part of their education support system. I would recommend reaching out to other family members, academic counselors and teachers.

I start my master’s program at New York University this fall. My dad’s deep voice and wise advice will be forever engraved in my mind.

A support system doesn’t have to be made up of people who are related to you. It can be anyone you choose. For me, it’s Duane Palm, and it’s about time I thanked him.

•••

Iman Palm recently graduated with a degree in journalism from California State University and is now working toward her master’s degree in journalism at New York University. She is a veteran intern with EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps.

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