I was born into a family where education was a priority. My dad graduated from college and completed his masters when I was in elementary school. My mom did not go to college, but she talked to my sister and me about it from the day we were born. I remember her showing me savings bonds and telling me they were for when I went to college…I was probably in first grade. I was lucky to be born into a family where education was regarded as important.
I was always a hard worker…. more like a perfectionist. I needed to be a good student, if not the best student. I followed the rules and made good grades. I studied hard and was excited to get a scholarship to Baylor. From the time I got to Baylor, graduate school was a discussion that was encouraged by my family. At this time my dad was working on his Ed.D. By the end of it all my sister had a BA and a JD and I had a BBA, MDiv, MS, and PhD. Did I work hard, absolutely… but I was also fortunate to have the family I do.
I work with students from Austin Community College transferring to Southwestern University. Many are non-traditional… many are the first in their family to go to college… many work full-time while being full-time students… many did not go to good high schools because of where they lived… many did not have anyone in their life talk with them about college… ALL of them work harder than I can even fathom… ALL of them fight against stigmas and stereotypes… Some even fight against racism and sexism on their journey. ALL of them are beyond smart!!!
Our education system is not set up for these amazing students, yet in spite of it, they are succeeding! They are succeeding and educating others along the way about the plight of those not born into a family of fortune. They are voices to faculty, staff, and other students about how hard it is to go against your family’s culture. They are voices against the stereotypes that people only go to community college because they aren’t smart enough to go to a four-year university.
When I was at Baylor I only had to worry about going to class and working my ten-hour a week campus job (it was my spending money). These students work one or two jobs off campus to help pay the bills of their families and buy food. They help take care of aging parents. Some live up to 45 minutes from campus. While school is important to them, it is one of many things of which they have to focus and devote time. Yet they complete their assignments and never use their situation as an excuse. They don’t ask for special treatment, but they do deserve understanding.
Our society is full of sayings such as any one can succeed if they just work hard enough… There are countless number of my students’ family members that work harder then I have ever worked in my life and they are not succeeding because they can never get ahead. These students are in school not just to make a better life for themselves, but they desperately want to help they families. They also want to help others. They are the least selfish people I have met.
I am lucky and fortunate to be born into a family where education was a focus from day one. It was a focus because our basic needs were met. It was a focus because my dad had gone to college (first community college and then a four year university). It was a focus because my family had resources. Did my family work hard? Absolutely! But that does not mean those who don’t have the same resources are lazy and don’t care. Laziness has nothing to do with education or money… I know many well off people who are the most lazy, selfish, entitled people I know!
I am lucky and fortunate to work with students wise beyond their years. I am lucky and fortunate to work with students who are determined, caring, hard working, and humble. I am lucky and fortunate to walk with them during this part of their life.
I am most grateful they let me walk with them. They invite me into their world, their struggles, and their successes. I am humbled to be on this journey with them. They are my heroes and I am a better person because of them. They are the reason I have hope in the future.
I am lucky, fortunate… but mostly I am beyond GRATEFUL.