I’m from Ahoskie, N.C. (some call it ‘Hoskie) a small town of about 4,000 (which may be a stretch). We are small, but mighty! After 24 years away, I moved back home. Both my parents attended the local community college I currently serve as Dean of Student Services. The College opened in 1967. After serving in the Air Force, my dad finished in 1969 with a diploma in building construction. He was 24. He then went on to become one of the first Black man (if not thee) to work at North Carolina Power in Ahoskie and soon after went on to become the first Black, 1st class electric linemen for North Carolina Power in the state. Years later, my mom enrolled first in continuing education to obtain a certificate in cosmetology, then took credits that allowed her to transfer to Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). She transferred the winter of 1977, a few months after she birthed me into this world. For three more years, she traveled 45 miles one way, with three of her closet girlfriends; all education majors. All desiring more. Like so many then and many more more, they desired more and pursued it fiercely.
Fast forward to 1994; my senior year. I knew where I wanted to attend college. As I wrote in a freshman English class paper, “It was A&T or nowhere!” I had only applied to two schools – North Carolina A&T State University and Elizabeth City State University. Like many from my area, I’d received a partial scholarship to ECSU. And I knew so many notable alumni, especially Mr. Rochelle Vann, I was almost guaranteed to not have to pay out of pocket. My dad promised me a new car and even an apartment I believe. My response, “put it towards A&T. I’ll pay to go there.” My mind was made and I knew what that would mean.
Whether driving 45 miles or choosing to pay for an education when you don’t have to, it shows the pursuits we take to pursue higher education. The opportunity to learn more. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the range of my resume to date. I’ve attended the current number one public HBCU, worked at a top 25 public research university, a top five graduate program at Johns Hopkins and currently the second smallest community in North Carolina. In each, I’ve always worked in recruitment or advising so I know the lengths students and families experience to send themselves or their children to college regardless of the institution. I’ve had mothers call and beg us to change their son’s admission denial. Seen grown women travel cross country to pay $65,000 for an 18 month accelerated program. I know men, like my dad, slow down the rush of their life and hit the books hard just to get a little bit ahead.
I’m back in ‘Hoskie now and working at my fourth college or university. I’ve learned a lot in my seven months as a community college administrator. We celebrated our 123 graduates like most schools this spring – virtually. I wish I could have experienced the pride of their families hearing their names called. Some of them will go further in college, like my mom. Some will work immediately and in the end, like my dad, earn more money than those that pursue a four-year degree – even Hopkins. Regardless, learning shouldn’t stop; even in global pandemics. There’s always more to know. All that matters is what it’s worth and how much and how long one desires to pay for it. Often you don’t have to go far to find what’s best. And if you do, after you’ve gone away and experienced life, you can always go home.
j. darius greene