Cullen Performance Hall, The University of Houston

I am the first to admit that I wasn’t the best student throughout my academic career. In early grade school, I easily excelled. In middle school, my grades were a direct reflection of how little I cared about arbitrary assignments. I performed at a minimum level to get through and depended on personality to carry me the rest of the way. Charm is a valuable tool, but only gets you so far. I acknowledge the privileges that I was afforded because I was a kid that appeared well intentioned. Yet, most notably, while I struggled with arithmetic, truly the biggest obstacles that I faced were a combination of my wit and pride in high school. Wit, in that I most causticly rendered sardonic comments, especially upon a certain few educators who seemed to only arrive to collect a paycheck.

Even as a teenager, I felt justified in calling out a lack of respect in traditional student and teacher relationships. I refused to believe, especially as a teen that adulthood was a replacement for common courtesy and respect. I had always learned that respect is a two way street, so I was disheartened by educators who ran their classroom with disdain for the population they serve. That is not to say that I was correct in my approach or that I had all the answers. Yet, my pride in fact stood in the way of my self proclaimed righteousness. Four high schools in the same number of years is proof of the above.

College was a totally different experience entirely. While I didn’t come from a financial “full ride” family and because I squandered most extracurricular opportunities with my academic shenanigans, I started my college career in a more humble climate. I never took the SAT or ACT placement tests, so my journey started at Houston Community College unprepared to face an entrance exam and evaluation. The humility portion had less to do with starting at a Junior College, and more realizing how far I had yet to go before graduating with not only an Associates Degree, but a Bachelor’s degree from The University of Houston.

A comment was made at one point post high school graduation by my father that I would either receive a semester of tuition and books at HCC or a ticket to anywhere in the world. I still don’t know if that was a joke. Or, if I made the right decision, though somewhere deep inside, I rest assured that I did.

I worked through my college career, stringing along jobs where I could earn enough to pay for classes as I could afford them. I would be remiss to not mention the sacrifice of a now ex with whom shouldered said financial responsibility. I did not complete that part of the journey alone and with enough work and dedication, I graduated with a degree in something that I am passionate about (Integrated Communication) free of debt.

While I started my college career in a crowded admissions counselor’s office at HCC, I proudly consider The University of Houston my Alma Mater. When The Beach Boys belt out “be true to your school”, UH takes the cake for me. I developed a voice in those years which has served me professionally on numerous occasions and skills which have been honed through practice. I attended at the peak of Case Keenum’s meteoric return to the field, while Kevin Sumlin represented the Cougar Red, and while Robertson Stadium stood in all of it’s glory.

But as much fun as reminiscing about that time can be, I also know the importance of staying grounded in the present. Maybe adulthood has also taught me to enjoy the present and all that can entail in the moment more than waiting for the celebrations of graduation. Life, by my account, is meant to be lived by those willing to face the excitement of challenge, the spoils of success, the lessons through failure and the persistence of always standing back up.

I know that many students, teachers, and administrators are making their way back into the hallways for another start of a Fall semester. My hope for you is that you find those classrooms and campuses inspired. May you share the invigorating hopes for a better future in the work you do today. And may you be true; to your schools, your peers, and yourselves.

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