Students, you can beat the odds and graduate from college

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The chill in the air has descended upon us so quickly, signaling the return of school. It’s the time of  year when eighth graders are anticipating high school, and juniors begin looking at possible colleges. Finishing undergraduate college students may face the decision of continuing on to graduate school, entering into the workforce or both.

This column is for the college students, those trying to beat the odds of generational poverty, those who come back to the hood and get the “you-think-you-are-better-than-us” looks. It’s for those students with the correct grammar, and an appreciation for where you have been and where you are going. It’s for those who never gave up on a dream.

I’m writing this to tell someone they are not alone.

I have found my decision to go to college was a lonely one, and the journey was even lonelier. I also understand that many people don’t support higher education and may respond to your decision with the typical, “I know someone with a master’s degree working at McDonald’s.”

I know all too well about thinking I was not good enough to get into a prestigious university like Loyola University Chicago because of my grades or because I was from Austin.

I know the uncomfortable feeling of being the sole African-American male in a graduate class, discussing marginalized black men in low socioeconomic areas. I felt like a spokesperson for the entire race of black men. And maybe that was not my peers’ intentions, but race had everything to do with why I felt like that.

There will be times when you might be the only minority in study groups. But that’s OK. You have something valuable to contribute.

It is commonplace to discuss the number of people in Austin who go to prison, drop out of school or succumb to the false idea that college is not for them. There are many of those people who proudly tell the tale of prison, painting such a glamorous scene. We have plenty of platforms that tell the blight of Chicago’s most populated neighborhood.

But who tells the tale of an Austin college graduate student?

Who tells the very same story of the difficulty of being a college student, but in the same breath explains that the very diverse group of people you meet makes a place like Austin seem so small; that through building relationships you find out that not everyone has a silver spoon in their mouth either.

There are times when I feel more connected to the college students than I do to the people I have grown up around. The learning process is fun in and of itself — not to mention the partying that goes on! But I implore you to use your own discretion.

I know a lot of people with advanced degrees. It’s not that college is a foreign concept, but where I’m from, not many people tell you about the process. But I also know others without education who focus on the superficial end result. These people want to know what kind of car you drive or where you live.

I just want to tell people like Amber Jones, the focus of a recent AustinTalks article and part inspiration for this column, that despite what others think, the journey is rewarding and you are not alone.

3 thoughts on “Students, you can beat the odds and graduate from college

  1. Having gone through a school system where EVERYONE was expected to go onto college and make something of them selves, where the majority of the parents expected the same things of their children, and where the students themselves had the expectation of their peers… I firmly believe that it was the expectation that was the drive in the success of so many of my peers, as oppose to the information being taught. I constantly hear people talking about how this school or that school need more facilities, better teachers, a better leader… all these things are true to a certain degree, but neither of these things trumph the importance of nurturing the belief that you can and must go to college and do great things. Even the kids that didn’t care about school ended up going to college and doing great things.

    I know there will be those who say it is easy for me to write this since I don’t know what it is like to grow up in the hood, and you would be partially correct, I don’t have the same experence that some of you have, however I have been a professor for a number of years. I’ve taught a various universities and community colleges and have taught diverse groups of students from all walks of life. I’ve taught many students areas like Austin… mostly at the community college. Many of them were bright, but lacked the self-esteem to take advantage of their brightness. It was always sad watching such students with the obvious intellect to make it onto great things give up and make excuses for their failures. It was always a pleasure to see students in similar situations make it despite of the extreme odds they faced… one student who was homeless made it all the way to graduation, truly amazing!

    It is truly sad that there are so many parents, adults and children alike out there that put their own misplaced worldly views, ideals and personal feelings of inadequacy over the good of the youth. And it’s truly sad that there are parents that don’t want the best for their children.

    I hope that a sense of strong expectation to go to college and do grat things gets implanted in the youth of today, because with the expectation of failure comes the garantee of failure.

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