I attended Hampton University in the Fall of 2000. I was 17 years old. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have a laptop or even desktop computer. I didn’t have a cellular phone.
I was armed with two suitcases, a book bag and summer earnings from two summer jobs. I had a determination to not only attend college hours away from home but to graduate. I heard stories of countless kids beating the odds by getting into school but for whatever reason, not graduating within four or even five years.
During those first few weeks of freshman orientation professors and even upperclassman always said “Look to your left. Now look to your right. The person sitting next to you will probably not be here in four years.”
“That’s not going to be me”, I told myself.
I oozed self determination in every fiber of my being. I alone did not get myself to the doors of Hampton . I stood on the shoulders of my sister, my mother and countless women that supported my decision to leave the known comfort of Connecticut to the unknown and very different Hampton Roads community.
My support system reached beyond my immediate family. I was also leaning heavily on the support of community members many whom were interconnected through our community center in Norwalk, the George Washington Carver Community Center.
It is here that I learned the importance of everyday people showing up and helping others. The concept of “it takes a village” to raise a child rang true. There were countless adults that walked through the doors of the Carver whom helped many children that were not their own. The fundamental belief that we take care of and look out for each other was evident in all they did. It could have been as simple as providing a dollar to a child to ensure they had enough money to catch the city bus or as big as connecting said child to the appropriate person that could secure a reoccurring college scholarship that would total $20,000 over the course of four years (this happened to me).
This idea of adults showing up and helping all children trickled down to the children themselves. They also helped and encouraged each other. They themselves mirrored the behavior of the adults around them.
As I mentioned above, I was 17 years old and my greatest armor I had was my raw determination to succeed. However, I had something else just as valuable-I had a network of people that truly were rooting for me.
One said person was a student herself attending Hampton. When I arrived the Fall of 2000 as a freshman she was a sophomore.
Also a Carver kid-she grew up with adults around her showing up and being their for countless kids. The most influential adult in her life committed to this work was her own mother. Like countless adults connected to our community center, her mom showed up and consistently showed love and support to all the kids that entered those doors.
Therefore, it was no surprise for me when I finally arrived to Hampton that Fall-she showed up. Without hesitation or excuses of having an overflowing plate of responsibilities as a sophomore in college-she made herself available to me.
“Do you need a ride to the grocery store? To Walmart? I’m going to come get you on __________ day. I’ll take you to my apartment. I’ll show you around. Here’s what you need know”.
These are the things (among many) she readily said to me as I prepared to begin my first semester as a undecided major in college. It felt good to know at least one person from home shared a familiar story. Seeing her at Hampton as a sophomore solidified for me that I was going to be ok. If she can do it then I can do it too.
I never forgot her consistent support that year as I became more comfortable in my new surroundings by “my home by the sea”.
Almost 20 years later, we both continue to share commonalities beyond our Carver days and Hampton degrees. We both chose education as our careers. We both have experienced life changing events that have pushed us to evaluate our lives and our purpose. It is no surprise that I reached out to her for a one on one interview. An interview that turned into an almost three hour session of revelations and healing. An interview I will share with you soon. Until next time, go forth in love.