Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Cincinnati to speak to students, oh behalf of the Freedom Writers, about the importance of education and how one choice can have major consequences.

I recalled the high academic expectations my mother had for me and how hard she worked to make sure I got a quality education. How she constantly reminded me that education was my ticket to life as more than just a secretary or working retail.

For a long time, I thought my story of fighting every step of the way to achieve my mother’s dream was insignificant, compared to some of the other Freedom Writer stories of violence and abuse. But seeing the kids in Cincinnati — many of whom are also being pushed to go to college, while not really seeing any resources to accomplish this goal — made me realize that my story can help give these students hope.

I also had to reflect on the fact that while education is a great opportunity equalizer, there are even fewer resources available for these students than there were for me. Education budgets are being slashed and the result is crowded schools and classes, overworked teachers who have been villanized, and students who have little hope for their educational future.

Still, I did my best to inspire and encourage the students despite the increasingly difficult atmosphere in which going to college seems like an impossible dream.

And on my way home, I got an amazing phone call. My oldest son is being awarded a scholarship to a boarding school in Washington DC because of his outstanding academic achievement and strong leadership. My hope was restored that while the resources seemed to be shrinking away, there are still opportunities for kids who work hard to rise above the rest and be recognized for it.

I know that he’ll have to work twice as hard while being away from his family and surrounded by other kids whose parents are probably paying their tuition to this private school. But my fear that there would be too much pressure for him was calmed when he told me that he was ready and would do whatever it took, because this was his chance.

His chance to get a great education and a solid foundation to prepare him to get into a great college.

And my heart swelled with pride, remembering how hard I had worked to impart the same value for education as my mother had imparted to me. This legacy was being passed on, and there is hope that my son will one day earn a college degree and become a second generation college graduate.

Image by DieselDemon

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