There is a college or training program for everyone. I want to shout this truth from the rooftops. I want to tell young people – especially innercity youth – not to be scared by the misguidance they receive from the media, some counselors and other educators. Don’t believe the hype and don’t accept negative boundaries.
The greatest influencer on your future is your determination. If you want a college education, you can have one – no matter what your grades or test scores. Getting in college is certainly easier if your high school record is strong but your life and your higher education opportunities do not end when you turn 18 and graduate. It will take you longer if you have to make up ground, but it can be done. People do it every day!
Believe it or not – going to Harvard and other Ivy League colleges do not automatically mean that you will be successful in your career or life. Your determination, your drive, your networking, your consistent work are what take you forward and determine your success.
One of the most important achievements that a college degree or certificate shows is that you started something and completed it. On the journey to a degree, there are:
- course requirements you have to complete,
- hurdles you have to jump through,
- obstacles you have to overcome
- various personalities you have to deal with.
The degree and the doors it opens are your rewards for having run the gauntlet. You will get props for this completion as much as for the specific knowledge you gained.
I know people who went to community college did well and transferred to and graduated from competitive four-year colleges (Wheelock and Mt. Holyoke to name two). One challege of community college is that you have to make sure that the courses you take will be accepted for transfer credits by a four year institution, so if you choose this route, do the research and choose your courses wisely.
I had a hairdresser who took one or two courses per semester for years at a university because she wanted a college degree and to eventually stop doing hair. It took her a little over ten years to complete her degree. She did it, started a new career, and has never looked back.
Education is critical to being able to participate in the bounty of this country. I am especially disturbed when my friends’ sons and some of my male relatives do not go to college. For young Black men – it is crucial to become one of the few with a degree rather than being one of the many without. With so many strikes against you, having a degree is one you can have some control over. The few, the proud, the educated to paraphrase The Marine slogan.
People have achieved degrees even when under-prepared by their high schools, even when financial aid packages are reduced after the first year (an all too common occurence), even when they have children to support, even when English isn’t their first language, and even when their spouses and family aren’t supportive. A determined person can find a college or training program and get through it.
Another relative by marriage was able to go to college and get a bachelors and a masters degree despite the fact that he had not taken but one math class in highschool. This was because of racism and poverty issues in the small Illinois school system he grew up in. Once he overcame his fear that he wouldn’t be able to make up the math courses, or pass the entrance exam, or get in – he was able to achieve his dream to become a teacher. It took a lot of effort, tutoring, prayer and hurdle jumping – but he did it.
There is a college or training program for everyone and numerous ways to finance an education – even if it has to be a loan. Taking out a loan for an education that will increase your earning power is a wise investment in yourself. What is not wise is to start and not complete. Too many people I know, dropped out and never returned and are now paying back loans without the benefit of the degree. (And I have a friend and a relative who have been taking classes for 20 and 30 years respectively who just haven’t finished despite having tons of support along the way; proving the adage you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make her drink.)
It bears repeating – the greatest influencer on your future is your determination and your actions.
I hope the people I am most intending these words for – hear me and are inspired.