Piles of books were stacked high on cases that lined the wall. Some were so crammed between each other that you had to pry and pull to free a book. Occasionally the shelves would creak under the weight of all the pages. I thumbed through a book that caught my eye, turned to my dad, and asked him to read it.
What seemed like a scene in an old bookstore was the reality of my childhood home. An unfathomable amount of books, comics, graphic novels, and National Geographic magazines filled my small home. Though we didn’t have room for much, we always had room for books. That was the reality of growing up as the daughter of a college professor.
From a young age, my dad always stressed the importance of education. He would tell us to “be lifelong learners,” and the best way to do that was through books. My dad even went as far as to implement a mandatory 30 minutes of personal reading daily. My 15-year-old self dreaded when he would approach me asking if I had done my reading that day. What seemed like a burden and a curse of well-educated parents completely changed my perspective on education and learning.
While in D.C., I noticed this common theme among all the speakers we met with; being lifelong learners. Specifically, the first speakers we met with were Ed Timke, Kevin Thomas, and Jean Grow. Hearing about their life journeys, I saw the prominent aspects of education in each path. They all went to college, entered the workforce, and eventually returned to continue their education. This similarity struck me and shed light on the value of education and learning not just in your 20s but for years to come. This focus on continuous learning empowered me to do the same. I want to be someone constantly expanding their skills and learning their whole life.
It was important for me to know this because I am confident that Gen Z, my generation, will achieve amazing things in the future. Research supports this perspective, “not only is Gen Z more likely to go to college, but its members are on track to become the most educated generation yet.” (Gen Z 2022). How powerful is that? Gen Zers are making their mark in the world one book, class, and lesson at a time. We understand that knowledge is empowering and learning is the key to success; what an admirable characteristic.
Before this D.C. trip, I knew I wanted to continue my education; I didn’t know how or why. However, after this D.C. trip, I know I want to continue my education in any way I can. I can now proudly say that I am a lifelong learner and will commit to that until the day I die.