|Some rights reserved by Sean MacEntee|
The Gift of Education without Limits
Vice President of Education
My parents set educational expectations for me early. For as long as I can remember, I knew after high school I would go to a four-year college and graduate, period. They showed me how to apply for college, took me to visit some, and made sure I knew the importance of good grades and SAT scores. There was little talk of how to pay for school, but I had worked from the moment I turned 16 and my parents told me I could work my way through college.
I walked into St. Mary’s University on my first day of college wanting to be a High School art teacher. I had adored mine (and grew up watching Bob Ross on PBS) and thought it would be great to paint all day! Then, halfway through college I started working as an advertising director’s assistant and embraced computers, desktop publishing, and technology. My focus quickly changed to marketing and both my parents (who were educators themselves) encouraged me to earn a business degree. They told me I could always get a teaching degree and certification later, if I still wanted to.
I soon discovered I was good at school. After starting a family, I quickly earned a Master’s in Education and then immediately moved on to a Ph.D. in Education, concentrating in organizational leadership. I earned my Texas Teaching Certification and worked as a high school technology teacher and administrator before coming to KLRN. How did I do this financially? Well, I worked while I was in school and leveraged financial aid. I applied for scholarships and grants with my undergrad while still working about 30 hours a week. With my Master’s, I worked for a school that paid 80% of my degree. When I started the PhD program, I didn’t have any school loans, which is unusual but definitely possible.
Looking back, I think the best gift my parents gave me was the plan – even if it wasn’t mine at the beginning. The simple expectation – go to college - was clear and simple. As a young adult, I needed someone to tell me what to do. I gradually became to forge my own path and develop my education into what was right for me.
Earlier this year, I attended a San Antonio Area Foundation luncheon that featured Geoffrey Canada as the keynote speaker. Canada is a dynamic and humorous speaker, and the developer of the Promise Neighborhoods and helped cities all over the United States educate kids from “cradle through college.” He speaks of having the same expectations for all children that we would have for our own. He laughingly tells people to “think like a rich person,” when it comes to our children’s education. This statement allows us to reach without concern of economic status, which I believe is supremely important. Our place in society does not dictate who we are or what we can become.
What do you want for your kids? I think most parents want them to be happy, healthy, and educated. Education allows our kids to have choices. Can everyone afford to go to college? I believe so – we are fortunate to live in a society where we not only have options for places to receive a higher education, we also have ways that help us finance it. Some of my favorite people work in the financial aid office of the universities I have attended. Financial aid can be a college student’s best friend. Get to know the people who work in the financial aid office! They know so much and can help you focus on funding that works for you whether it is grants, scholarships, work study, or loans. Meet them prior to applying to college. Financial aid is truly there to help, independent of your personal situation.
Now it’s my turn. My daughter is now a sophomore in high school and my husband and I are planning for her future. We started telling her in middle school that we expected her to go to college. We also told her that her job was to work hard in school – academically and holistically. Our goal is that she has choices for college, without limits of location or economics, like me. We often tell her, “Wherever you get in, we’ll figure out how to get you there.” We set the expectations, show her the plan, get her involved, and help her make it happen. Isn’t that the plan for all successful ventures? If so, then we need to apply it to our kids and their education.