Real Experiences for BHM 2016: Mentoring and Expectations

In Black History today: Sorry I've been gone a few days---hectic schedule. Today I want to talk about perspective and exposure as they relate to opportunity. One of the most shocking moments to occur for me was my just before my senior year of high school. I was working at the water park with several others and we were having a convo on what we were going to do after high school. I said I was going to college and get a job, that I would be somewhere else. One of the girls thought I was crazy; she remarked that it was harder than it sounded and unlikely that I would move out of my parents' house. I had never contemplated that thought that I wouldn't go to college or that after 18 I would live with my parents. That's not how I was raised. Interestingly, since graduating the longest time I've spent home was the 3 month of summer after my freshman year of college; since then 2 or 3 weeks in December is the most time I'm home.

But she was right, a lot of my peers do still live at home. Some went to college and are being hounded by Sallie Mae (that struggle is too real) others are trying to find the right path for them before jumping out of the nest. What I learned and am trying to convey is that what you are exposed to as child deeply shapes your perspective and thus your ambitions in the world. If everyone around you is surviving pay check to pay check, you it may never occur to you to go to college let alone graduate school. Or it may occur to you but you don't know how. When I told a friend I was working on a PhD in computer science, he thought it was overkill since I don't want to be a professor. His exact remark was that I would be working for people who only had a BS and was wasting my time. Yet as I scroll through the job listings for companies I want to work for most of them require at least a Master, some a PhD. His perspective is local---you probably don't need a PhD for 90% of the jobs in SC---but my perspective was that I didn't want to be in SC. These little differences have a way of shaping our paths, which is why its important to have diverse perspectives around you when you're young. Its just as important to know that if you don't make it to college that doesn't mean you're a failure as it is to know that you can go to college. This is why mentorship is so important in our community.

The media would have you believing in all kinds of foolishness about what it means to be Black, but we need to show our youth the opportunities that are abundant for them. I know most of the Divine 9 (Black Greek Letter Organizations) sponsor mentorship programs in the community. Mentorships like these are what keep kids out of the street. I also know that people like VeeAnder Mealing, Sherwin Williams, and Freddy Paige have been active in mentoring college freshmen. These mentorships have been cited in studies as the driving force in increasing the number of Black Masters and PhD recipients. Why is that important? Because the more PhDs we have in the community means the more $$$$ we have in the community. #MakeItCount #BlackHistory2016

Photocredit: Borges

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