Education is defined as the action or process of educating or being educated, and a stage of such a process of knowledge and development as a result of the same. Many will argue that education comes in many forms. Many struggle with whom to give their credit to for their education. Is it an inner calling that drives one to excel. Is it our fear of disappointment that drives us to over achieve. Is it merely self fulfillment or maybe earning potential is our only motivation to strive for a higher education. I use to believe that it was simply a choice we made as humans to embark on the unknown. I would soon realize that it lies much deeper than any of us can truly imagine.
My grandmother was a single mother of four children. She lived in an era in which just being a black woman created two strikes against her. Being a single mother of four and lacking the ability to read or write was invariably her third and final strike. My mother’s childhood was riddled with stories of the State entering her home in order to deem her mother as unfit. Does our ability to form words and translate them into meaning define our station in life. Well, Lillie Mae Reed would answer this question for many us in over a hundred different ways. All of my memories of my Grandmother recall a woman who was strong, driven by love for her family, faith in God and a resilient character that knew no bounds. I remember that although her voice was different from most there was never any question about the message old Grandma was conveying – be strong, treat people right, educate one’s self, and get an education. Yes there were two forms of education my grandma stressed – one that would come from life and the love God blessed us with and the other from a school that would give us the gifts and the opportunity that she was not afforded because she could not read or write.
As a child I can remember my mom hustling to work, then home to cook and then off to school. My dad’s schedule often mirrored hers. So when we wondered why we saw so little of them they would tell us because they were fighting to make our lives better than theirs ever was. It took years for me to understand the true meaning of that, and many other similar statements. To that end, I would learn the hard way, about both the education life had to offer as well as the one available to me between the four walls I would learn to hate.
My junior year in high school I was flying high, but would soon have the wind beneath my wings snatched from me. I was a victim of a violent crime. This incident struck the core of my being, the foundation of my family and changed my life forever. I lost faith in people, love, trust, my own judgment and many other things that we take for granted each day. Despite these events, it was my grandmother’s wisdom and my parents’ relentless love that willed me through the next two years of high school and the accolades I would subsequently achieve during this time. I was chosen to become a congressional scholar and traveled to Washington, D.C. to join other students in touring the Capitol and participating in various scholastic activities. I was also chosen for Who’s Who among American High School Students for four consecutive years. I mention these accolades not for praise but for understanding of the next few years of my life. I was later accepted to Clark Atlanta University, a dream come true, but not part of the plan life had for me. I would never make it even to see the campus grounds of Clark Atlanta University, but would instead opt to stay close to family and attend New Mexico State University. I began what would be a short tenure at NMSU, as a result of my arrogance and what was once a shiny background I thought that I did not have to work hard in college. I dropped out of NMSU in the middle of my second year and this was the first of many failures. So another life for me began. Not one that I had planned but one that was a product of my own bad decisions. This life soon ended me in Texas with children and in an abusive relationship.
One day became three days, three days became three weeks and three weeks became three years and the like continued. As these years passed, I digressed. I went from job to job, unsatisfied with where I was going, not know where else to turn, the only solace I received was that of which came from the successes of my family and friends. They would not disappoint me. In 2006, my older sister who had struggles of her own was graduating from college, the University of Phoenix, with a Bachelor in Criminal Justice Administration. I was elated that she had found her way through the storm. By this time, I had played with the idea of returning to school for a while. Here it was that my older sister had just graduated with her degree from University of Phoenix and my younger sister was currently enrolled at the University of Phoenix. But my life was very different from theirs. My younger sister had no children. My older sister had only one older daughter. They were not trapped in a life that hindered their freedom, their every breath. I could not do what they did. My family did everything to make me believe otherwise, they prayed, lectured, cried and pleaded. My mother even reminded me of our promise to my grandmother. I always knew that I had not forgot that promise or the lessons that she taught me, I guess I just kept them tucked away in a safe place close to my heart where I believed all of the other good things in my life had gone to hide. In 2007 two things would happen to that year to convince me that time was only either wasted or seized, nothing in between. My younger sister graduated from the University of Phoenix with her Bachelor’s degree in Human Services and I decided I would give my education a second chance. Reluctant and afraid, I reached out to the University of Phoenix – with both of my sister’s graduating from University of Phoenix I felt more comfortable. However, I looked at a few other distant learning institutions. These other institutions looked suitable, but the minute I spoke with my enrollment counselor, I knew that University of Phoenix was the best choice. The enrollment counselor shared her experiences with me. She made me feel comfortable about attempting to rejoin the fight. She assured me of my success before she even knew where I had been or where I was going. My enrollment counselor guided me from the inception of my inquiries through to my first scheduled class, in which she then gently and respectfully handed me over to my financial aid advisor and my academic counselor. The feeling I experienced mirrored my first day of high school. I felt brand new; as if God himself had erased all the mistakes and bad choices of the past. I was part of a team. I did not know it yet, but my successful completion of my degree would be a collective effort. There were good days and bad days; days I wanted to throw in the towel and days I could not wait to participate in an open class discussion. On the bad days, my counselor would say to me “You can do it”. My counselors seem to always know when I needed encouragement, a break and a hard dose of reality and they provided each of them to me. In addition to their guidance and support, they shared their personal stories with me that allowed me to see the light at the end of the tunnel through their shared experiences.
I will not lie to you, sometimes it did not work. Even though I was enrolled and actively working toward my degree to improve my life, my life continued to bounce back and forth between financial ruin, emotional instability and day to day pressures. I fought to endure evictions, lay-offs, disconnections, and deciding whether to feed my children or pay the electric bill. Turmoil ensued, and while I lay in the trenches looking for relief, I notice to the left of me, the staff and counselors of University of Phoenix, to the right of me, my family and friends cheering me on. You see, in life you will encounter battles, you will lose some and win some, but none of it seems any worse than the other when you have a team such as the one that was tending to my wounds and preparing me for the next war. As I look back on my tenure at University of Phoenix, it is one that has been full of adversity, stresses and the overwhelming desire to give up.
As it stands now, I have two siblings that have graduated from University of Phoenix, one with a Bachelor’s and one with both a Bachelor’s and a MBA. I now have both my Associates in Arts in Business and Bachelor of Science in Business Communication. I have reached the end of this journey. I have conquered a personal success that was once only an un-kept promise. I can now say “look Grandma Reed, I did it”. I have arrived at what my UOP counselors, the UOP staff and my family would not allow me to give up on. Recently, I was face to face with that overwhelming desire aforementioned and I turned to both of my counselors and said “I give up”. My Academic Counselor, responded to me with a question, “Then What”, frustrated at her question I took a deep breath and realized that I did not know. My confusion, her support and relentless efforts to motivate me forced me to expand my perspective not only on life but my place at UOP. Up until that point, I had only concentrated on the stress and the valley that I was in. But as they had done so many times in the past, Felicia Luckey reached out her hand and pulled me from that valley.
It was at that time that I was able to look back at my life and say thanks to God for the tumultuous road I had to endure to become a better, stronger, more spiritually driven person. I do not know what the future holds for me, but for now, I am able to believe that my journey from a broken, battered woman to a college graduate, mother and rebuilt woman has only begun and I feel more renewed and focused than I have in years.
In closing, I owe my thanks to God, to the wonderful staff of counselors and instructors at UOP and to my family that helped me to see what was always in plain sight, but hidden by lessons and blessings that would arise from their constant presence in my life. When I first embarked on this journey I never imagined the overwhelming joy I would feel when I walked across that stage, leaving behind chapters of discord and uncertainty and embarking on what would prove to be chapters of solace, humility and success.
To that end, it is our pursuit of the American Dream that most often motivates our sacrifices and our mettle. We emphasize to our children the importance of education, despite the lack of our own. Our desire for their future to be superior to our past is overwhelming. We struggle to impart them with the suitable tools to achieve their dreams and invariably the ones we missed the mark on in our youth. These tools are and always have been present, just hidden by our pursuit of them. Take the time now to redeploy your efforts in continuing your education. In the battle of an uncertain economy, it is vital to equip yourself with the necessary tools to become competitive and ensure some semblance of stability in the pursuit of the American Dream.
Universities and Colleges nationwide have made groundbreaking developments to offer innovative ways to achieve most, if not all educational goals and needs. University of Phoenix has reached unparalleled heights in providing its students with the resources and devices to successfully achieve an improved quality of life and self-worth. The road to the American Dream has become more traveled and successfully conquered through the innovative approach to distance/online education programs.
My story is filled with overwhelming obstacles; however the pursuit of my education has equipped me to change the end of my story. Your story, as long as there is breath in your lungs is still left to be written. Why not fill the pages with fears overcome, obstacles removed, and the American Dream accomplished?