My dream of attending college after graduating high school was put on hold for a few reasons.
1. My parents simply could not afford it. The “borrow money from your parents to get an education” suggestion recently made by a politician was not an option for me. With the small amount of money my parents made, I was happy to have a place to stay, clean clothes, and plenty of food to eat. A lot of kids do not have the luxuries we so often take for granted and despite the political rhetoric out there, hunger and poverty are real in America.
2. I was tired of going to school and wanted a break from the classroom, or so I thought. I knew I wanted to be a Marine since I was about 10 or 11 years old, so joining the Corps was the perfect escape from small town Georgia. Thank God my mother did not kill my dream by telling me that the military was no place for a black man. I have actually heard parents tell their children that nonsense and it drives me crazy. The Marine Corps has provided opportunities for me that I would have never been able to tap into had I not joined. The leadership traits and principles I have learned since I joined have helped me to become a better man and a good citizen.
I would say that the decision to join the enlisted ranks did not turn out too bad for me. The awesome senior Marines who raised me and the stellar Marines I’ve worked with, in combination with my drive and determination are the reasons I am a Master Sergeant of Marines today. No one told me that the Marine Corps sends students to college on ROTC scholarships, pays full tuition, and presents them with the opportunity to earn a commission as a Marine Officer. I’m talking about a chance to lead the Corps most prized possession, the enlisted Marine.
After eleven years of service, I had no college classes on my resume because I was always too busy to start taking classes and then I met Master Gunnery Sergeant (ret.) Robert “Bob” Organo. Bob was entering his 29th year of service and working on completing his Master’s degree. He asked me what I was going to do once my days in the Corps were over. When I couldn’t answer his question, he encouraged me to enroll in college because we are all going to have to take the uniform off one day and you need to have more than 20 or 30 years of experience to put on your resume.
I knew I needed to set short-term (Associates Degree), mid-term (Bachelor Degree), and long-term goals (Masters & Doctoral Degrees) for myself. Once I took my first college class and got over the fear factor of being a student again, I remembered that I was smart and had the ability to be an outstanding student. My short-term goal was achieved in 2010 when I finished my Associates Degree from Park University. On Saturday, May 5th, my mid-term goal will also be achieved when I receive my Bachelor Degree, with honors from the University of South Florida.
As a parent to school aged kids, I had the opportunity to practice what I had been preaching to my children. I expect my kids to make A’s in every class and they know I am not satisfied when they make a B and C’s or D’s is not acceptable in our house. I had to set the standards high for myself if I expected them to follow my lead. The goal of making all A’s in college was my way showing them that it can be done.
I was so disappointed in myself when I made my first B in college. The first thing I thought about was breaking the news to my kids that I fell short of the goal I set for myself. I am not satisfied making B’s because if I would have applied myself a little bit more, I could have made an A in that class. Note I said made an A, not received an A because a teacher can’t give a student a grade; they earn what they get.
Setting high academic standards for your children is not unrealistic because they will perform if parents hold their feet to the fire. I am not going to sell myself short and not going to allow my kids to get by thinking that it’s OK not to make good grades. Colleges and Universities are getting harder and harder to get into, and having a transcript full of C’s & D’s does not look good, whether they are a good athlete or not.
I won’t let my kids’ teacher tell them that it’s OK to make B’s and C’s if that’s the best they can do. That’s a slick way of telling you that your kid isn’t smart enough to make A’s. Now I know every child won’t make all A’s, but there is nothing wrong with putting those expectations out there. As parents, we have to be involved and concerned with our kids’ education. Even if you don’t know how to do the stuff they are doing, at least sit down with them and try to figure it out together, or go to the teacher and let them know that your child needs additional assistance.
Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to our future.” Opportunity flows from education and hardship flows from the lack of education. A lack of education limits the amount of options we have to earn a living in this country. Globalization has changed the game, and the work force requires that we have a stronger educational background than ever before. A college degree does not guarantee you a good paying job, but it makes you a more marketable person. Think about it this way. If people with college degrees cannot get good jobs, how in the world is a high school diploma or dropping out of school even an option?
I encourage parents not to be dream killers. Listen to your kids and figure out what it is that they want to be when they grow up. Tap into their potential and embolden them to reach for the stars. The next generation of leaders is living in our homes right now and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that our kids are part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Being a full time husband and father, a full time Marine, and a full time student at the same time has not been easy, but it is absolutely necessary. Seeking a higher education does not make me a “snob” or do me any good if I do not share what I have learned with someone else. I am one of the Talented Tenth W.E.B. Du Bois spoke about in the early 1900s. I will never forget where I came from and continue working hard to be a leader in my community by educating myself, writing politically conscious material and being directly involved in social change.
The first thank you goes to Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program and the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill for covering all of my tuition costs. To MGySgt (ret.) Robert “Bob” Organo, thank you for inspiring me to get out of my comfort zone and helping to re-shape my life and career. To the staff at the NROTC Unit at the University of South Florida, I thank all of you for your patience, tolerance, and understanding while doing my best to set the example for our students to emulate. To all of my family and friends who have supported me in one way or another, thank you to you as well. Finally, to my loving wife and our four beautiful daughters. Thank you so much for the support you provided during this ride of late nights, early mornings, and countless hours of me sitting in the office studying. You ladies are the reason that failure was not an option for me.
Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on May 2, 2012 via Blogger.com