Against All Odds: A Story of Tenacity, Hard Work, and Higher Education

jbheKenya Hicks, Tashea Stanley-Dixon, Khadija Darr, and Kenji Kuykendall grew up in Waukegan, Illinois, about 40 miles north of Chicago. They have all been close friends since they were 12 years old. All four girls became pregnant while in high school and all four gave birth to sons. All four fathers abandoned the teenagers before they gave birth. All four girls were obliged to go on welfare temporarily so that they could provide for their children. Kenya and Khadija dropped out of high school. One might have bet these four teenagers were doomed to a life of poverty in single-parent homes. If you took that bet, you would have lost.

The four teenagers made a pact to support each other and succeed despite the fact that the odds were against them. Through education and hard work, they were determined to give their children a better life. All four went back to school, worked when they were not in school, and received help and support from friends, family, and each other.

Today all four women are in their 30s. They all have graduated from college. By the end of next year, all four will have MBA degrees.

Kenya Hicks was supported by her parents, grandmother, sister, and friends as she completed an associate’s degree at Robert Morris University and a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Missouri. It took her 12 years to complete college. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the Keller Graduate School of Management. She is in the process of starting up a home service agency. Hicks states, “We inspired and supported each other relentlessly to finish college no matter what challenges we faced so we could change the direction of our journey and rewrite our destiny.”

Tashea Stanley-Dixon enrolled in a community college and worked at night calling homeowners who were delinquent in their mortgage payments. It took her eight years but she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia College. She too, is enrolled in the MBA program at the Keller Graduate School of Management. She is now a certified paralegal.

Khadija Darr earned an associate’s degree at Robert Morris University and a bachelor’s degree at Columbia College. Almost 90 percent of her course work was completed online. She is currently enrolled in the MBA program with a concentration in accounting at Concordia University in Chicago. She currently operates her own T-shirt company and has a tax preparation business. She plans to become a certified public accountant.

While working various jobs and taking care of her son, Kenji Kuykendall attended a community college part time over an eight year period and earned her associate’s degree with honors from the College of Lake County. She then went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in 2008 with a specialization in workforce education development from Southern Illinois University. She graduated magna cum laude. Currently Kenji attends Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and will earn a MBA with a specialization in organizational behavior in January. It was a 14-year journey to complete her education. She now is works in human resources for a major pharmaceutical company in Chicago with aspirations of becoming a human resources executive officer. She lives by the motto, “Hard work does pay off.” She could not have achieved her goals without the support of her family and friends.

Excerpt from http://www.jbhe.com/ (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education)

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No I can’t!

You tell yourself one more time. I don’t think I can ever do that, no way! Not me! Then you remind yourself of all those mistakes, all those times you failed, all those negative things that were said to you or said about you and you tell yourself one more time, ‘I definitely can’t!’. Then you shrug and you walk away, walk away from your God given destiny because you think that you are not qualified. You walk away from a life changing opportunity because you believe that you are not up to it. You give up on something you really would have loved to do because you’ve failed before or you’ve been told by someone that you are not good enough. Or maybe you are good, but then there are no funds to pursue your dream at the level that you would have loved to at that time, so what do you do? Give up? Walk away? Pretend it doesn’t matter? Find some other dreams and pursue it? One of my sisters had the following signature on her email: “The person that speaks to you the most is you, so be careful what you say to yourself”.

There are a lot of opportunities out there for those who think that they can. The truth is, when you begin to think that you can, your mind begins to see opportunities, and you begin to dream. As those pictures come to you, you need to write them down and begin to say them to yourself again and again. Tell yourself what you are going to do, as you do that, you are influencing the circumstances around you to begin to shape up for you and for your future. If you need to improve your skills, by all means do. Practice if you need to practice, find a mentor that believes in you and is willing to hold your hand and walk you through. If there’s no one like that around you, don’t despair, read books about people that have done what you want to do, study on that area and acquire knowledge. Spend time in prayer and meditation and let God guide your heart.

The picture below shows it all, don’t wait for anybody to tell that you can. Tell yourself you can and please DO!

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…And the rain fell!

I love the rain Not just did the rain fall, it fell at the right time. The right time for me is when I am indoors and probably about to write. The rain sets the perfect scene especially if I can watch from a window, a closed window that is. Lols.

For other people, the rain would be falling at the wrong time, probably they are about to go out for a meeting or visit someone or do something outdoors. Anyway, that’s life for you. The situations we meet may not always be favorable, some of them can be downright discouraging but you know what? We have the choice to either get discouraged, depressed and drop out or to keep going on, irrespective of how we feel.

What choices are you going to make today? This week? This month? This year? You may not be able to choose certain things that come your way but you definitely can choose your reactions to them.

I was at a wedding one day, the reception was outdoors and it began to rain. I simply told the bride and the groom to enjoy themselves and not bother about the weather because if they do, they would end up having a bad day. Did the rain stop? definitely! Was the wedding a success? Absolutely- we all had fun and really really danced.

You are the only person that can stop yourself from doing what you want to do. The Rain only becomes a hindrance when you see it as one. So also do the other things that happen to you. Choose to see possibilities only and that is what you would have always.

Cheers!