“Taking people where they are and carrying them as far as they can go,” is a true representation of my journey to earn a college degree. Growing up in a family of 20 grandchildren, only 4 being female, I struggled to gain acceptance from my grandfather. He was a person who believed in male supremacy. He felt that males were stronger in every capacity. Females, he felt, should be homemakers and care for children. This philosophy is one that I refused to accept.
I once asked my grandfather for help financing dental braces. He said to me, “Rachel, you are not pretty enough or smart enough to have braces. You do not need them. You're never going to be a model because of the scar on your leg; you are not smart enough to be a doctor or a lawyer or anything that you would need to look pretty…You will never amount to anything but a housewife.” Those words were truly hurtful, but have served as unwavering motivation for my success. It was not until serving in the military and earning a college degree, while being a mother, that I saw acceptance from my grandfather. Obtaining these successes however, was not easy.
After working to graduate high school with honors, I have tried for over 10 years to complete my college goal. I joined the military, deployed to Iraq, and was in and out of two different colleges. I got married and moved to Ohio and then to North Carolina, still trying to pursue a degree. My husband got a job working for a government contractor and was scheduled to be deployed to Kuwait for a year. That all changed when I discovered I was pregnant. With this life change, my husband gained employment at Sunny Point in Southport, NC rather than deploying. We purchased a home in Ash, NC and then I went back to college one last time to try and complete my goal.
The day before my 29th birthday on Dec. 13, 2011, I reached my goal at Brunswick Community College. With help from my family members, co-workers, and college instructors, I earned an associate degree. I know that this is only the beginning of my educational dreams.
In summary: I had a dream; I worked relentlessly and I appreciate my accomplishments. My journey began as a 14 year old girl being told that I was not bound for success. I have graduated high school, served in Iraq, live each day as a proud American Veteran, a mom, a college graduate, and a full time government employee. I am thankful for those words from my grandfather. Recently I wrote to him, telling of my accomplishments. He replied, “Dear Rach, I am proud of you, you have accomplished a great deal more than the boys. Please say hello to my great granddaughter, she is a very pretty girl. She reminds me of you when you were small. Love Grandpa.” These words prove that with dedication, determination, and passion, we can go as far as we will allow ourselves to dream.