When I was in the fifth or sixth grade, I was selected to attend a week-long summer retreat for girls and boys from rural Texas. It was a Four-H Club program sponsored by the Polk County Home Demonstration Agent and the Polk County Agent. One can only imagine how excited this little girl from Leggett, Texas must have been. I was about to leave home for the first time.
My mother was scared to death to let me go, but she was probably more scared that if she didn’t let me go, I would miss an opportunity of a lifetime. She had no idea what the opportunity would be. Neither did I. But she was right. Driving onto the site where I would spend the next week of my life was an experience that was stamped in my heart and mind forever.
As I write this, I can still vividly see that day. The sign at the entrance said Jarvis Christian College. From that day on, I have been indebted to the Black College. It was at Jarvis that I had an awakening. It would be years before I understood the significance of that experience. After spending a week exploring—I cannot remember all the things we did that week, but I do know that I had an opportunity to practice my oratory skills. I was never one to be shy, and after having been called upon numerous times to lead the “devotion” in my elementary school assembly where I had to recite my poem, or whatever I assignment I was given, “by heart,” I was ready to be on stage or carryout the assignment, whatever it was, without hesitation.
When I was asked to serve on the Paul Quinn College Board of Trustees, I declined at first. When my cousin, the late Dr. B. L. McCormick, a great pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, insisted that I should reconsider, I did so without hesitation because I remembered the experiences I had at the Historically Black Colleges that set me on the path I still follow today.
During my senior year in high school, I told my Mother, who did not graduate from high school, that I wanted to go to College. She said, "You want to go where?" She told me she didn’t know anything about college and she didn’t know how to help me. After all, she did not finish high school. I told her that my teacher and the County Agent - the same one from elementary school - said they would help me. And they did. They helped me complete the application for admission to Prairie View A & M College, and the application for the National Defense Student Loan that I received to help with my expenses that were not covered by the tuition scholarship I received as the valedictorian of my high school class.
I enrolled at Prairie View A & M University, and because of my experiences from my elementary school trip to Jarvis, I felt more comfortable there. I was still a country girl whose parents took me to Prairie View in our old, beat up pick-up truck. The majority of my clothes were made by my Mother, and they were in the hand-me-down trunk given to me by my uncle who had just returned from the Korean War. I stood out as an awkward, country girl among the big-city girls who had beautiful, glitzy clothes and an air of sophistication about them that I didn’t have.
But at Prairie View I found all I needed for success—great teachers who not only taught me their subject matter, but were also my mentors in social and life skills. In the end, I walked away from Prairie View with more than a degree. I left with a much greater confidence in my ability to be successful. I felt responsible for my own success. I felt empowered. I felt a sense of responsibility to help others enjoy the same experiences I had from two Historically Black Colleges. One started me on my way. The other pushed me into the world prepared to serve and contribute. That’s why Paul Quinn College is important to me. It is why I contribute to an institution that will continue to nurture other girls and boys and will ignite their desire to attain their dreams and serve others.