My father was the primary bread winner in our household when I was young. He worked the night shift as a police office for one of the roughest streets in East New York Brooklyn and during the day he owned his own Auto Parts Store. I depended on him to pay for my college tuition for a CUNY (Community College) school that I attended. He paid without any complaint every semester. He never pressured me about attending college and he never came down on me about my grades, but I always aimed for that “A” because I had something to prove to him and to myself, that I WAS college material!
I remember looking at the checks that he would pass to me for tuition. As I ran my fingers across the digits embedded in the check, I often wondered what I would do without him. What would I do if he lost his battle to the cancer that he had been diagnosed with? He was much more than those numbers on the check. He was my motivation. He worked and he worked damn hard. He overcame adversity and he was where he was because he BELIEVED in himself and was determined.
I wasn’t eligible for pell or tap (financial aide) because my dad had too much of an income in their eyes. When he lost his battle to cancer at New York University, he left without the chance to witness me walk down the aisle to receive my Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from the private college he put me through. At that point, I thought my college days had ended. Afterall, I had to work now and put that degree to good use. I had plans and goals but my Master’s degree would be placed on the back burner because there was no way I could afford that tuition.
As a first year teacher, I had it rough. I began my days alone and early with a class close to 30 kids. I was basically thrown into a classroom to learn from these children and put my best practices in place. I was determined to make a difference, all along my Master’s degree embedded in my mind like those digits on those checks my dad passed across the table to me. I was working three positions in the school. I worked the Rise and Shine program in the morning, was the YMCA Reading Specialist and Counselor, and I was a classroom teacher.
One Sunday evening, I received a phone call from my principal wanting to speak with me. We spoke that Monday morning in her office and she explained that she was given the opportunity to nominate three exemplary teachers and one of them was me. We would take off campus courses from New York University (coincidentally the same hospital where my father lost his battle). I had no idea what all this meant at the time but after a few months, the Revson Starr Fellow Grant had received more money and we matriculated. I walked away with a $70,000 Master’s Degree from New York University and graduated with honors in Early Childhood Education.
As I look at all of this now, there were times when I could have given up. I could have walked away from teaching to choose another, easier profession. I chose to stay positive, focused, and grounded. I worked day in and day out, scared that my bills wouldn’t be paid (I was married at the time), that I would never be able to pursue more college degrees. Yes, I was scared but I also had that image of my father working hard and providing me that example of facing adversity with strength and perseverance.
My father was and still is my BIGGEST role model. Wakefield Research conducted a survey among women across the U.S. on behalf of the makers of Pine Sol® products. This survey indicated that 86% of women ages 35 plus, said their biggest female role model was someone they knew personally. This person was not a celebrity or personality, which is great to know. According to the Pine Sol® survey, 65% feel they are currently a role model to someone in their life. I hope to be a part of that percentage in my classroom and to my own children. Strong role models are needed for our future to set positive examples! We can find those role models right in our own household, just as I found mine.
As part of the campaign, Pine-Sol® has awarded a $25,000 donation to Women Empowered, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles that connects, educates and supports women of all ages and backgrounds, with the focus on giving back to their communities. Pine Sol® has teamed up with Brooklyn’s own Rosie Perez to launch the “When Life Gets Tough, Women Rise Above It” campaign. This born and raised Brooklyn girl is honored to be a part of this campaign and spread the word about getting through the tough times in life, because I have done it!
I encourage you to head on over to www.WomenRiseAboveIt.com or www.LasMujeresNoSeRinda.com and share your story of triumph by entering the sweepstakes. We all have a story in our past, let’s share it and inspire others, showing that WE can OVERCOME and RISE above it all!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States & D.C. 18 years and older. Ends 1/31/14 at 11:59 a.m. PT. To enter and forOfficial Rules, including odds, and prize descriptions, visit www.womenriseaboveit.com. Void where prohibited.