by Todd Williams
The benefits of education are undeniable in my eyes. As a child I was taught the importance of education. I saw the results of what education could do for an individual. I saw the benefits of education in my own home, in society and most of all in my life. Granted, this realization was not an instant one. Education has been my sanctuary, the place where I could go and feel safe, and find a degree of acceptance.
My educational experience as a child, was what motivated me to explore higher education as an adult. Education has proved to be the foundation upon which my life is built and the place where my passion lies.
As a child I was introduces into a world that revolved aroud education. My earliest memories are of growing up in poverty in Oakland, California. I remember my dad was a janitor and my mom worked in a department store.
I remember one day Dad called the family together and announced, “I’m going to college, so things might be a little rough around here for a while.” My first thoughts were, why should he go back to school when we are already poor enough? I could not understand what school could possibly accomplish for him or our family.
Years later, when I saw my father graduate, I clearly began to understand the importance of education. My Dad went from being a janitor to a Clinical Psychologist. Our family’s stock had clearly risen. We moved out of the ghetto and into a nicer neighborhood.
I still remember my Dad’s words to me and my siblings, “I do not want you guys growing up having to tell people that your dad is a janitor.” Even though I was young, my dad’s sacrifice made a huge impact on me and I began seeing education as a pathway to a better life. It was at this point I decided that in order for me to get the nice things I wanted in life, I needed to excel in my education.
I began to pay close attention to the business world. As a teenager I began reading unconventional magazines, the Robb Report, Forbes, Entrepreneur and other business magazines. I made the connection between those who were living comfortable lives and those who had achieved a higher education. Every magazine I read about a business person, compelled me to find out what and how much education they had. What I realized, there were very few successful people on television and in magazine with no education.
I did well in elementary school. I studied hard, and found learning and excelling in school came fairly easy to me. I made numerous honor rolls, was placed in classes for the gifted and enjoyed learning. However, I struggled with the fact that I was not accepted by all the cool kids in school. I was considered a nerd and that was not acceptable with the cool groups. It was funny because I actually found peace and contentment in learning and books. I had found a place where I fit in and that place was among the so called “nerds” in school. I found the praise and acceptance that being smart and intelligent afforded me. I knew I wanted to be successful, make a lot of money and I thought I knew how to achieve it. I had no idea that the road to my education would be such a long and difficult one.
What I did not realize about education, was that it did not mean that because you are smart you automatically have common sense and self-discipline. Self-discipline was what I lacked and it quickly showed up in my college experience.
I graduated from high school and was accepted into Howard University in Washington DC. I learned that in order to get good grades in college, it was mandatory that you show up for class. As a result of my inability to exercise discipline, and my love for attending parties, I began failing my classes. These actions did not bode well with my parents, and they told me, “if you do not attend classes, we will not continue paying for college.”
How could my parents be so insensitive? After all, I was only 17, raging with hormones, three thousand miles from home and living in a co-ed dormitory! I felt as if my parents were being unreasonable. As a result of all these factors, I decided that school was just not a viable option for me right now.
My life took a great deal of unexpected turns after I dropped out of college. I worked several jobs, but none of them afforded me the type of lifestyle that was possible without higher education. I was introduced to another route to get the kind of of money I needed to live the lifestyle I had dreamed of. This one choice led to a multitude of bad decisions, irresponsible acts and eventually prison, with a life sentence.
A few years into my prison sentence I realized what was missing in my life, completion of my dreams as a child, going to college and getting my degree. I knew that unless I completed my education, I would always feel as if I had failed in life.
Education has had such a profound effect on my life. Education became the one thing that allowed me to feel whole again. It put purpose and meaning back into my life, and most of all gave me a sense of accomplishment. In May of 2014, I graduated from Coastline Community College with two degrees. I earned an Associate of Science in Business and an Associate of Arts in Social/Behavioral Sciences. In addition, I also earned a Business Certificate from the same College. In July of 2015, I will be graduating from Lassen Community College with another Associate of Science degree in Liberal Arts. These accomplishments justified my passion.
Education has opened my eyes to so many different avenues of my life. I realized that God gives all of us talents, but it is up to us to develop them and make the most of them. Education has become my passion and I now tutor and teach math classes in prison to men that are trying to earn the GED’s. Education is not just about learning but also about challenging ourselves to see what we are capable of, to build our self confidence, our self esteem and allow us to see exactly what we are capable of in life.
Education has taught me the importance of giving back and helping others that are less fortunate and in need for help. People don’t often listen to what we say, but they do watch what we do.
I now see the ssame devotion to education in my daughters. My daughters were able to see my dedication and commitment to earning my degree and understand the importance of obtaining, a quality education. Education is now the foundation upon which my life is built. I challenge anyone that wants to live a good life, to take a chance on education, see if it will make a difference in your life. What’s the worse that can happen? You become successful! One thing is guaranteed, if you see your education through and don’t like who you have become, you can always go back to being who you were. Wouldn’t you hate to go through life thinking about what you could have possibly done or been and not to do it. Education has taught me the most important lesson in life, there are no shortcuts. Don’t wait until you get a life sentence to learn this lesson.