As the oldest child, I’ve always been the one to experience all of the “firsts.”
I was the first in my family to attend college and become an Aggie, though not the last, and I’ll be the first to graduate with a college degree.
This weekend, I will be the first to receive my Aggie Ring — the symbol of everything I’ve worked so hard for — surrounded by the friends and family who have loved and supported me along the way.
I know I wouldn’t be here today without my mom, who made sure I knew from an early age that despite being a first-generation college student, college was an option for me.
She started saving money to put toward college for her three children when I was in elementary school. Even through a divorce and a few years of raising three young children on a single income, she never stopped saving for us and for the futures she wanted us to have.
For me, this ring is the embodiment of all of the hard work that’s gone into getting me to and through college. It represents not only how far I’ve come, but how far I can go.
My life has changed so much in just a few years, but some things have stayed the same. Namely, my love for my family and friends, and my passion for telling stories through photos.
For the last six football seasons, I’ve spent my Friday nights or Saturdays on a football field with a camera in hand.
I started photographing football during my junior year of high school, not because I wanted to, but because I was asked to by the yearbook adviser. I knew almost nothing about the sport, but I quickly came to love covering football games.
Walking off the field after my last high school game, I thought I would never enjoy covering another team as much as I’d enjoyed my two years on the sidelines with the Smithson Valley Rangers.
Boy, was I wrong.
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped onto Kyle Field to photograph a football game.
It was 2015 and the Aggies were taking on Bama. I was immediately overwhelmed by how intense the energy was. There’s nothing quite like feeling — yes, feeling — the roar of the 12th Man or watching the student section sway during the War Hymn from down on the field.
Now, three years later, I’m still photographing Aggie football for The Battalion and Aggieland Yearbook. There’s no place I feel more at home than on the sidelines of Kyle Field.
For the last four home games of my senior season, there will be an Aggie Ring on my finger, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I’ve met many photographers and reporters over the years who proudly wear their Aggie Rings while covering football games. For me, that’s been a reminder that this will always be my home — that graduating doesn’t mean I’ll never find my way back to the sidelines and the team that helped me discover my love for sports photography.
When I walk off of Kyle Field for the last time as a student after A&M plays LSU in November, I will undoubtedly feel like I’m leaving a little piece of myself behind.
But more importantly, I know that I’ll be able to carry this little, golden piece of Aggieland with me no matter what field I’m on or what team I’m photographing.
No matter where I am, they’ll know I’m an Aggie.
Cassie Stricker is an agricultural communications and journalism senior and photo chief for The Battalion.