By: Marlene Baumann
I knew since I was a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to work with children. I grew up in a Haitian home, so my mother desired for me to be a nurse or a doctor, so to make her happy and to keep my dream of working with children, I decided I wanted to be a Pediatrician. When I was in my Junior year in High School I went with my godson to one of his appointments and they gave him a shot. He cried, and I held him in tears, it was in that moment I realized I did not have the heart to give children shots. I told my mother that I would be a teacher. She was not upset or disappointed because she saw how passionate I was about children. I went to school in South Lancaster, MA, Atlantic Union College was the name of the school. It was a very small private school in the middle of nowhere and I did not know anyone there. I was not prepared at all for college. I was the first in my family to attend college; I was not aware of tuition, board, fees, how to register for my classes, textbooks, meal plans etc. I just knew I needed a degree to become successful so that my mother’s move to America was not in vain.
I could not afford all my books so I would borrow my colleague’s books and make copies when needed. I couldn’t afford my school bill; I had to do work study. Speaking of study, I did not know how to study. I never set a time out in my day to read, to study or to review. I literally would read before or during class. I remember my teachers saying that I have so much potential because my papers were excellent (but almost always late) and I could talk my heart away during discussions. I had the aspirations of being an awesome teacher but with the habits of a awful student. I left Atlantic Union College after Spring 2008 semester because of a bad break up. I did not see myself ever going back to school there (as long as my ex was there) So I enrolled at the Community College of RI. I went to some classes before realizing that the work load was too much and working and trying to keep a social life to distract me from my broken heart. I started to hang out with friends who knew how to study and I took advantage of that; I started to create good study habits.
Finals came around and I remember leaving class with excitement and confidence because I knew I just aced my first final. I received a phone call from my brother saying that, “Luis Perez died” I knew he had a friend named Luis Perez so I said, “Oh no Ben I’m so sorry to hear that. He responded, “Not my friend Luis Perez, your Luis Perez.” My heart dropped, I pulled off to the side of the highway and called Luis’s mother. She picked up only crying on the line. My heart broke into pieces. Luis Perez was my high school best friend; I was the first friend he made when he moved from New York to Rhode Island. I missed the rest of my finals because I was mourning. I never made those exams up. I failed that semester. I decided not to go back. I realized I did not want to be in Rhode Island any longer. I decided to go back to Atlantic Union College in Spring 2011. When I registered for classes, I was determined to get better grades, that this would be my chance to start over and graduate. When I returned to AUC, there were a lot of rumors that the school was going bankrupt, that we were losing our accreditation, and that we were not going to be able to finish our degrees. I was so afraid I was not going to finish school, but our President assured us that no such thing would take place. Summer of 2011, I received a letter saying that AUC was closed down and that we could not return back to school that Fall. They gave us options of going to school in Maryland, Michigan and Tennessee. I chose Maryland because it was the closest to home
When I moved to Maryland, I slept in my car for one week before the dorms let me in. The dorm administrators told me they could not let me stay a week early. I would go inside the dorm every morning to shower and get ready for the day. I would drive around looking for jobs. I found one, a really good job that I would go on to work for, for the next six years. When the semester started I quickly realized how hard this was going to be. I had to work to pay school and to take care of my other bills. I couldn’t afford to live in the dorm. I had to move out, so I lived in a basement at a home daycare center. I began working for them, working for my daytime teaching job, babysitting, hosting children’s birthday parties and going to school full time. I was always tired, my health was declining I could feel it. I worked so much that my grades suffered. I knew what I was being taught, it’s just that I missed class because of work, or I turned in my papers late or not at all. I looked like an awful student again and it hurt me. This went on for four years. I watched my younger brother graduate before me. I watched my best friend graduate before me. I watched all the younger kids I knew graduate before me. Watching everyone do it except for me made me feel hopeless. In 2015 my mother fell ill, she lost her home of 18 years! I went to Rhode Island, packed up the house into a truck, and moved my mother, sister, niece and nephew into my two-bedroom apartment. I continued to work hard, stressed every day and just angry at life.
To top everything off, I found out that I maxed out my federal loans, I could not afford school out of pocket. I was truly depressed. This was the only topic that could instantly bring tears to my eyes-not being able to graduate. I did not know this at the time, but many people wanted to see me graduate. A family that I babysat for, for years wrote me a generous check, my church Metropolitan SDA, and generous friends helped out by creating a Go Fund Me account; they all pitched in to help me financially. The school accepted me back in and I was able to graduate in just two semesters. That morning while driving to the ceremony, I began to cry in the car as I was talking to God. I was reminiscing back on my journey, all the pain, tears, rejection and shame, I finally made it. My mother’s move to America was not in vain. I didn’t walk across that stage, danced across the stage May 2016. I learned that persistence is so important to becoming successful, hope is vital for survival and prayer will change everything. My best friend told me that graduating college was not a race, it was a marathon. I remembered that every time I had an exam, a difficult time registering for classes or a block in the road. Don’t ever give up, there will always be a way even if you can’t see it.