I owe my life to education. Correction. I owe my life to all of those individuals that provided me with the education that I received. My diploma, then my bachelor’s degree, and then my MBA became my ticket out of homelessness, out of poverty, and then out of any fear that I would ever live in poverty again. I am sometimes asked if I am living the life I had dreamed for myself when I was a homeless kid. My answer to that is simple:
“I couldn’t have imagined a life like this. I didn’t know this existed.”
My Journey Towards Something Better
While I know for a fact that I couldn’t have imagined the world I live in today, I can remember when my heart started to yearn for something different and something better than the world I was living in. This occurred during my first true view into the middle class. I entered junior high school and made friends with girls in class that didn’t know they had just made friends with a poor girl. I was invited into their homes for sleep overs and birthday parties and homework sessions. What had been my view of the world opened up dramatically just by witnessing what would be considered “everyday life” for any of you.
While I still didn’t know what this was, I did begin to understand that something else was possible. I understood that my friend’s parents went to college, and I understood that their parents made (much) more money in a year that my mom would make in ten. Without them knowing this, those parents became mentors to me. I remember a mother of a friend of mine that was an accounting assistant. When she came home from work, and we were watching cartoons in the living room, she would tell us about her day. I remember listening keenly since this idea of office life was so new to me. One of my friends had parents that were both scientists. Her mother was a biologist, and her father was an engineer for Qualcomm. I remember her dad showing us a tiny phone he had built in his lab that was the size of a thimble (this was in the 90’s) and then him explaining why he would do such an experiment for the purpose of research. I remember another friend who had parents that combined entrepreneurship with their passion for gardening and built a multimillion dollar corporation as a result.
All of these examples are important because, through hearing and witnessing their story, I was able to grasp the answer to this common student complaint:
“Why do I have to learn this? How is this going to help me in my life?”
I knew that what I was learning in school mattered because all of those parents had provided examples that proved that it did.
Give Them Your “Why”
Do you want to know how you can change someone’s life in an hour or less? Well, I’m going to let Nick Jackson – accomplished educator, motivational speaker, athlete, community activist and ordained minister who has enlightened, entertained and championed the lives of over 265,000 high school and collegiate students – let you know. He said it best at this year’s Cincinnati TedX event that I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for. Take it away, Nick!