Thursday, March 22, 2012
My mother dropped out of school in the seventh grade to help raise her siblings. However, she always understood the value of education and she encouraged me to do my best so that I could go to college. Although numerous obstacles blocked my path, the challenges I have overcome have profoundly influenced my pursuit of a career in higher education. Earning a bachelor’s degree was not going to be a means to an end for me. I set high goals for myself to be a lifelong learner and obtain an honor reserved for very few, earning a doctoral degree.
My education was always a priority in my family. My mother taught me to read when I was four, always encouraged me to do well in school and homework always came before fun. I watched my mother work various low paying jobs to make ends meet; both she and I knew that college would be my key to a more fulfilling life. So while I knew that I was going to college, I had no idea how to get there.
At the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I joined Upward Bound. It was a great opportunity for me. I had fun, made friends, I even learned some things! As a senior I had the opportunity to attend the MAEOPP (Mid American Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel) Student Leadership Conference. I had a wonderful time going to sessions and meeting new people. The last night of the conference, we were at the banquet dinner and there was yet another speaker; Dr. Bertice Berry; famous author and lecturer. Dr. Berry spoke to us about making the most of the opportunities that we were given. She had also been in Upward Bound. Her message was, also, one of giving back. She became a professor, she said, to help students in the way she had been helped along her journey.
As I sat there and listened to her speak, it was as if I light bulb went on over my head. By the time her speech had ended, I knew that I would work for TRIO. In my three years in Upward Bound, I had been given so many opportunities. I realized that I wanted to spend my life helping students from similar backgrounds! After leaving the banquet I remember telling my mentor and the program Associate Director, Carole Johnson, that I wanted to give back.
I spent the rest of my senior year convincing my Upward Bound staff that I wanted to work for TRIO and asking a lot of questions. Once they realized my persistence for the issue, they provided me with many opportunities. After my first year in college, they allowed me to work for the program in the summers. For six summers during undergrad and grad school, I worked as Head Resident for the same program that I was a student in. The experience I gained during my summer work was immeasurable; I saw it all! There are things that happen during summer session that I could never learn about in a textbook: drugs, illness and injuries, deaths of students and student’s families, hospital trips, there isn’t much I didn’t dealt with!
My passion for helping other students succeed continued throughout my undergraduate career. I became a member of Student Support Services (SSS), another TRIO program designed to help with college success. I also worked for SSS as a student mentor, gathering experience and preparing myself for a career with college access programs. Despite my support system with SSS, no one at home truly understood the challenges of college, I found myself in need of additional support and that led to my active involvement on campus.
As a freshman, I held leadership positions within Black Student Union and the Gay/Straight Alliance. I was also a member of Hispanic American Leadership Organization and Students Association for Multicultural Education. As a student of color on a predominantly white campus, I sought programs that would allow me to meet other students of color and educate the campus about my culture. My involvement on campus allowed me to see how my personal experiences had given me a special ability to empathize, motivate and serve others.
After working four summers as a counselor for Upward Bound, I developed a passion for counseling students. For this reason, I applied to the master’s program in counseling at Emporia State University. When I had my intake interview, my advisor told me about the student personnel program and I made the switch; I had finally found my calling.