The walk down the red carpet of the Thomas & Mack Center on graduation day is a momentous occasion and one Angellica Hungerford had been looking forward to. Even with this ceremony postponed amid the social distancing climate of the coronavirus pandemic, receiving her degree this May will mark a significant milestone.
Hungerford will be the first in her family to receive a college diploma. Hers will be a bachelor's in psychology with a minor in marriage and family therapy. She’s also the first student in the first cohort of the HOPE Scholars program to graduate.
The HOPE Scholars program provides housing and financial assistance for students who have identified themselves as "unaccompanied youth," or students who have experienced homelessness or grew up as foster youth.
Hungerford, 21, is used to talking about her upbringing. She’s had her share of ups and downs but through it all, she’s kept one goal in mind: to show her siblings that despite their challenging backgrounds, they can persevere and can break the unhealthy patterns they grew up with.
She is also an Engelstad Scholar and is planning to get a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.
May’s graduation postponement is equally a disappointment and silver lining for Hungerford.
The ceremony is primarily for her grandma, who raised Hungerford and her siblings. The diploma signifies her grandmother’s sacrifices and support.
“She was very sad for me. She told me that she was sorry because I worked so hard to graduate. But I did tell her that it will be postponed for a later day and she was happy that I’ll still be able to graduate,” Hungerford said. “[My siblings] got sad too because they knew how I worked hard to get to where I am now. But they are happy and excited to see my graduate whether it be now or later.”
As for the silver lining, Hungerford is thinking about the next generation of HOPE Scholars.
“For one of us to graduate, it shows the younger cohorts and for those to come, it is possible. HOPE Scholars does help kids out who have come from hardships. It is possible for us to graduate. We come from bad backgrounds, but we can still make it, and make something of ourselves,” Hungerford said.
Hungerford is finishing up her classes remotely. Like many fellow students, she’s adjusting.
Until the middle of March, Hungerford was working as a program coordinator at the Boys & Girls Club. She’s on furlough right now. She has a lot going on and a lot to think about. But it’s the kids at the club who have been on her mind. She worries if the kids are getting food and if they’re safe.
“For me working at Boys & Girls Club doesn’t feel like a job. It never feels like the same day. It's a different day to day experience. I do miss it a lot. I miss the interaction with co-workers. We keep in contact with each other. We are a mini-family and used to seeing each other more than our significant others and family members."