On May 2, Luss graduated from Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, where she studied communications and was the editor of the student newspaper. She’s been a resident of Austin since 2000. Prior to college, she attended high school at Trinity High School in River Forest. 

Are you the first to graduate in your family?

My uncle was the first person to get a degree in our family. He got a software engineering degree from DeVry. He passed away in 2002. I’m the next one after him. 

What was your journey getting to Harold Washington?

After high school, I went to Purdue University in Indiana. I wanted to get a masters in communications degree. But my mom was laid off from her job and I ended up taking out a huge loan in the middle of my freshman year. It was either take out that loan or drop out. So, I took out a loan, finished my freshman year at Purdue and transferred to Harold.

At Harold Washington, I worked for the Herald Newspaper. I also worked part-time in the John Hancock Observatory. I started as a regular volunteer writer with the Herald Newspaper and worked up to managing editor. That position was demanding. I had to be a lot more organized. 

What are some misconceptions people have about two-year colleges?

A huge misconception people have of community colleges is that the students who attend them aren’t smart enough to get into four-year colleges. This is completely untrue. In many cases, they’re similar to four-year colleges academically, but the pace is different.

What you do plan to do now that you’ve graduated?

I have to get my bachelor’s now. I plan to finish my bachelor’s at Purdue. After I get my degree, I really want to get a job at a startup company, not a big corporation. I’m thinking about doing marketing or PR with my mass communications degree. There’s a lot of underrepresentation of people of color, bigger women and women in general, who are often oversexualized. 

I live between the Austin and Central Green Lines and I can walk either route to the train and women have to deal with a lot of harassment. We have to endure stares. I blame a lot of this on how women are viewed in the media.

How do you plan on getting the money to go back to Purdue?

I wish I knew exactly. I think that’s the worst part about our educational system. It’s so economically based. I have the smarts to go, but if you don’t have the money, forget it. All I can do is pray, fill out scholarships and hope somebody gives me a chance. No one can give me a loan either. My original plan was to leave Harold after the first year but they said I had maximized my loans already. So, I don’t know. It’s really not in my hands. 

If you had the ear of the U.S. Congress or the primary decision-makers on education policy in America, what would you tell them?

I think one of the biggest things they can do is stop treating universities like a business and having kids coming out of school with basically a mortgage. Minimum tuition is like $40,000 a year — that’s not even realistic. You shouldn’t profit off of students. It should be illegal for student loan companies to charge these high interest rates. I hope the government can pay attention to the fact that students are suffering. 

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com 

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