Completing a college degree is tough. Completing a college degree while confronting some of society’s most impactful and polarizing issues, and being brave enough to address them, is extraordinary.
Maggie Raymond, president of the UNC Charlotte University Honors Program, will graduate this month with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. Her diploma tells the story of her life-long academic achievements but overcoming challenges with deportation, mental health and gun violence does not beget any award or certificate.
At the age of 12, Raymond, born in Raleigh to Canadian immigrants, learned that her mother’s green card application was denied, requiring her to leave the country. The complications of a pre-teen girl losing personal contact with her mother weighed heavily on Raymond, and she began suffering from depression and anxiety.
After completing high school, Raymond followed her older brother to UNC Charlotte in hopes of completing the pre-med track and moving on to medical school to become a doctor. The pressure and high expectations Raymond placed on herself continued to increase her anxiety.
During her sophomore year, gun violence struck UNC Charlotte’s campus, further extenuating Raymond’s anxiety. Raymond found comfort in a peer group in Charlotte’s Honors Program — a group she says feels like family.
In the spring semester of her junior year, the COVID-19 pandemic hit with the border closings creating further distance from her mother. The feelings of isolation and loneliness weighed heavily on Raymond. Her experience through the pandemic inspired a senior capstone project for the Honors Program — one that helps battle the stigma of mental health issues.
Raymond has come to the realization that there are other ways she can positively affect outcomes in people’s lives without being a doctor. Currently, she is using her chemistry knowledge and experience at a local hospital to mix intravenous medications, a job she absolutely loves.
Graduating from UNC Charlotte, she said, gives her a sense of validation and opens the next door in her chapter of life. She’ll walk across the stage on Saturday, Dec. 18, with her brother and father in attendance, something she previously did not want to do. To Raymond, graduating wasn’t always a symbol of achievement — it was something she was supposed to do. After taking a step back, she now realizes that it’s okay to celebrate herself and reminisce about the lifelong memories created on Charlotte’s campus.
Raymond doesn’t want to look too far into the future for fear of setting unrealistic expectations for herself as she continues to focus on her mental health. What comes next for her? That’s unknown. Scary? Perhaps for some. But she’s ready to embrace the uncertainty and find the joy in life, and to her, that’s the point.