Wouldn't be here / by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson

Neither of my parents went to college.  In fact, my mother dropped out of high school.  Yet, somehow I ended up at Duke University for my undergraduate degree.  I've spoken in earlier posts about the role my mentor, Deborah Dean-Nelson, played in making that possible for me.  Another key ingredient was financial aid.  Now, my hubby and I have our share of student loans, and I had work study as well throughout my undergraduate years.  But I also had grant money. It wasn’t until I joined the Sanford School Board of Visitors at Duke University that financial aid had a face.   I had no idea how the financial aid system worked and spent many a teary eyed session in the Bursar's office afraid I was going to get kicked out of school for not being able to pay my tuition.  Yet the checks always went through just in time, and I realized that it was because of people like the Liebs, the Steeds, and others who have been on Duke's board for a while who gave so I could have a better path.

I wouldn't be here without the generosity of others, and I'm fortunate and blessed to have made it not only TO but THROUGH college.  There are too many people along the way who don't have the support systems in place to make this a reality.  As a result of not having a network so much talent is forced to NOT work.  And while the four year university system is the place where typical financial aid is invested, there are too many places along the path where young people are one life event away from not being able to access this opportunity.  There must be other paths, on ramps to education and opportunity to keep our country competitive.  I'm grateful for those before me who made my path possible, and I am hopeful that I can make even more pathways available for others.