In an age when college kids are booing, shouting, rejecting, destroying, how about a change of scene to where young adults appreciate what they have? I honestly much prefer being a trustee at a community college than at a university. Community colleges enroll generally low-income students, and it’s the only way most will get a higher education and a pathway to a good job. I could recount here thousands of stories about students who succeeded over the obstacles they endured. Here are some of their stories; they do not complain, but rather show gratitude:
‘’My house was a little shack with walls made out of cardboard, pieces of metal, and scrap wood; on rainy days, the rain would come through the ceiling, and I would have to sleep on the edge of my bed trying to stay dry. . . . My mom and I would walk for miles to the town dump to pick through the produce trash for the vegetables and fruits that could be eaten.”
One student needed a scholarship because of family expenses for her mother’s terminal cancer. I called the student and said, “Promise me that at some point down the road you’ll return to college and that you will not give up.” She promised me she would. Not long after, the student called me, saying, “Mom passed away Tuesday. I just wanted you to know that I will return to college this fall.” The chancellor gave her some financial help.
One student got up at 4:00 a. m. to take three buses to get to her 9:00 classes. She had no other travel arrangements. She never missed or was late to class.
Here, the students speak for themselves:
She thanked the trustees for her scholarship, saying, “It will give the extra drive I need in difficult times with my dyslexia knowing others are supportive of me.’’
When “I was selected for the Lone Star College System Board of Trustees Scholarship, I started crying because I have never been proud of myself.”
‘’When I got pregnant, I thought for sure that I wasn’t going to finish high school, and definitely not college. Thank you so much for helping me get into college and for giving me some hope to look towards my future.”
“As a first generation high school graduate raised by a single mother, attending college has always been one of my many goals in life but being the eldest of three children, I know that affording college was not going to be easy. . . . If it wasn’t for the scholarship I would probably be working four jobs for the summer. . . . You have no idea how much this truly means to me.”
‘’My current economic situation is not very stable due to medical expenses when my father got extremely sick. . . . Thank you for the scholarship because to me and my parents it has been a dream come true.’’
“I also help my mother financially with what she may need help with. I haven’t talked to my father for about a year or two due to him being in prison and having a restraining order . . . .”
“My senior year was a difficult year for my family and me. Both my grandparents got very ill and needed medical attention. My mother had to quit her job working for the school district. . . . This is a gift in my life that has changed the outlook of my future.”
Here are our students’ fragments: “Came to college for the first time at age 50.”/”The doctors told my parents that I would never talk. Now giving speeches . . . .”/”Always told I would never achieve much in life. Now graduating on my way to Sam Houston State University.’’/”Single mother recovering from substance abuse. Graduating and heading to Houston Baptist University to pursue my dream of becoming a physician.”/”Was called stupid! Now I am graduating Honors Fellow who has won the All Texas State Scholarship.”/”I lost my academic motivation after my battle with cancer in high school. Now graduating with an Honors Association of Science degree.”
When at commencement I asked the graduating class at Lone Star College, North Harris how many were the first to graduate from college in their extended family, some 50% raised their hands. One student was about to cross the stage for her diploma wearing flip flops because she had no dress shoes. An administrator on the spot ran to the store to buy her a pair of dress shoes.
I finish here with the story about Rachshel and selections from her 1,159-word testimony at our recent Gala:
I was raised in a dysfunctional family. . . .My mother could not read and dropped out of school in the 4th grade. . . . My father left home shortly after I was born. He went to get diapers and never returned. . . . While in elementary at the age of 5, I decided to teach my mother how to read like I was learning. By the time I was 14 yrs old, . . . I was going to school, watching after my sister and niece, doing live-in work, sleeping on floors, and studying at night with a flashlight . . . . I wasn’t able to go to college right after high school. I had to take care of my siblings. I picked peas, continued to sleep on floors at night while living and taking care of others in their homes, and worked anywhere that I could to help my mother, and put my sister through college. Life became so hard, and at times unbearable. . . . There were times in life I thought there wasn’t a tomorrow for me. I was burnt over 90% of my body Easter weekend in the year of 2000. Doctors told me that I would never walk again, or have usage of my right arm. While dealing with the inability to walk, disfigurement of my face and body, I had to deal with the mental anguish of not know what was left in life for me to do. . . . I learned what it means when it is said that the race is not given to the swift, nor the strong, but to those that endure to the end. . . . I learned to walk, use my arm, my body healed itself, and most of all I have life, hope, a future and dreams.
I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today if it weren’t for scholarship donors such as yourselves. . . . I’m a very proud and grateful student of Lone Star College-Montgomery. I have managed to achieve a 4.0 GPA throughout my enrollment at Lone Star College since 2015. . . .Last week, I received an email that I had been selected as the recipient of a scholarship. My eyes literally became saucers and my jaw dropped. I was in complete shock. Then the tears came. I just started crying.”
Universities do their work, we do ours—both are in the major leagues.