I dropped out of school in the ninth grade. I never attended one day of high school so sitting in a college class with a bunch of much younger students was daunting. To be able to register, I had to take a general education test and pass it. Then I had to overcome a myriad of other obstacles to forge a way to start my college education. I lived at an elevation of 8,500 feet- 20 miles away from the college in a log cabin with no electricity or running water and had little financial resources to even think of going to college. It seemed an impossible dream. Yet, the dream was slowly becoming a reality. I had begun taking two classes in the summer and had completed my course work for the first week.
On Friday, my English professor passed back my first paper. I had written a story comparing my son’s mountain lifestyle with his cousin’s-who lived in the city. I was apprehensive to look at the teacher’s comments. In lovely hand-written scrip at the top of the page I read, “Good first try. You have potential.” I felt portions of insecurity slough off me like the dead scorched skin of a too-aggressive sunburn. The confidence I needed to believe I could succeed in any classroom was just one of the many challenges I had to overcome. I had not been in school for 15 years. Her words were like soothing aloe. encouraging me to keep going. That summer, I passed both classes and signed up for two more: English 102 (with the same professor) and Art Appreciation.
I was in love with the learning, loved breathing in new ideas, loved expanding my world through art and music, loved learning more and more about writing, loved having the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with written words. I grew resolute about my desire to teach. Watching the passion of professors who cared strongly not only about their subject matter, but also about the students they were teaching took hold in my heart. Their ability to impact lives was powerful.
One of the most influential touchstones of my college years was that first English professor. Her name was Marilyn Larson- the teacher who did not appreciate me laughing at my first homework assignment. She not only encouraged my writing and taught me a great deal in that few short weeks, she developed a connection with me and an interest in my progress. She took time to teach me how to apply for scholarships. I was awarded an academic scholarship the following quarter and for the rest of my college experience, I received scholarship money. She helped me to navigate the ins and outs of college life. She was an amazing role model- the kind of teacher I wanted to be.
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 KJV
Over the next few years, I registered for class after class and the Lord provided. I took history, psychology, drama, speech, children’s literature, Shakespeare, and more. I remained enamored throughout- absorbing the thrill of learning what I had never been taught. The only blight spot on the horizon concerning classes was the looming- the dreaded- math. How would I ever be able to pass the required math classes?
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
When it looked like I might actually earn an Associate’s Degree, I knew I had to face the inevitable and register for the most basic math class I could earn credit for and then I prayed. I prayed my way through every required math class after that. I did my part. I studied and studied and studied. I faithfully completed my tortuous homework. I went for tutoring help. I drove the teachers crazy with questions from my front row seat. I even had a teacher give me a huge button to wear on the last day of class that said, “I LOVE MATH” in huge red letters as penance for all the whining I did while in her class. Still, most math concepts remained as elusive as that pesky fly-here for a minute and then gone again-just when you were about to “kill it”. Therefore, before each and every math test, I prayed, “Lord, I do not know (fill in the blank-algebra, geometry, etc.) but You do. Please help me to pass this test.” And I did- time after time-sometimes with a fair margin- many times just one or two problems away from mathematical massacre.
I began to take classes to become an elementary school teacher. It seemed like an exercise in futility because I was sure too many stumbling blocks stood in the way for me to actually earn a degree, but I kept plodding on, just loving the learning, not wanting to give up.
Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number. Job 9:10
Two years after I started plunking out papers on my trusty Smith Corona and reading textbooks late into the night under a Coleman lantern, I graduated with my first degree. A few months before the quarter’s end, a reporter for the school paper ventured up the mountain to interview me and wrote an article about how I was surviving college while living in such an unconventional manner.
“Give me one moment in time, where I am more than I thought I could be- where all of my dreams are a heartbeat away.” Whitney Houston-
On graduation day wearing a black gown I never thought I would wear- standing among other graduates, I looked up into the vast audience to search out my family. There they were- my three children who had sacrificed so much to see this day happen. They had helped me study. They had encouraged me. They had given up time and attention with their mother and had hung in there with me throughout. Beside them was my husband- considering his feelings about my decision to attend college-far more proud of me and far more supportive that I would have ever expected. I smiled- so grateful for them in my life.
Suddenly, I heard my name spoken by the man at the podium. He was asking me and two other students to stand. What? The speaker was highlighting students who had overcome great obstacles to graduate. He told the audience about me never going to high school, about how I lived miles from the nearest town in a log cabin without modern conveniences, and that I achieved scholarships every quarter. He told them that despite the many challenges I had faced, I was graduating Summa Cum Laude- at the top 1% of my class. As the audience clapped, I glanced back at my family. They were all there-standing and cheering for me. Aside from the births of those three amazing people, this moment in time remains one of the most incredulous events of my life. All I could think of was, “Thank you, Lord!” To God be the Glory!
For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Psalm 86:10
Thank you wonderful readers for continuing with me as I relay to you my story. Next week I will conclude my education story- from dropout to degree. I want you to know what it means to me that you take time to join me. You can also check out my mini-study for this blog on the wondrous works of God. Again, thank you.