In today's climate I could not be more proud to be a graduate of an HBCU; The illustrious Paine College to be exact (PC 1x). I get the question all the time, "Where is Paine?" "What's an HBCU?" "What made you choose to go there when there were so many other, nicer schools in GA?" Glad you asked. SO...I will be honest. I was NOT the bookworm I could have been in high school, so I didn't necessarily have scholarships or acceptance letters rolling in my senior year. However, I was resourceful and determine to leave in the fall like the rest of my classmates. I had taken the SAT's and ACT's several times, and the PWI's told me, eh, try again later. I was starting to get sad, and began thinking about what position I should apply to at Walmart (inside joke for the people who don't leave Rockdale). One day, me and a friend of mine were talking during AP British Lit (told you I'm smart) and she mentioned she got a full ride to Paine College in Augusta Ga. Well I'll be, that's my HOMETOWN, why the hell didn't I think of that? I have family there (at the time very estranged due to my parents divorce) but it was family nonetheless AND I'd be with my people(holding my fist high in the air). Say less! No sooner than me hitting submit on my application did they send me a welcome letter AND congratulating me on my acceptance into the SSS (student support services) program; which saved my life during the tough times, another story for another day. Again, I grew up in Augusta, up until middle school at least, and my cousin and I had gone to Paine's FREE summer program several times, so I was familiar with the campus but this felt different. I'd be a student this time all on my own! I was so excited to start my journey into finding myself and purpose.
I wouldn't change my decision to pass up fancy cafeterias, plush dorm rooms and private transportation for the world. I have made some lifelong friendships, memories and learned things that no PWI could ever create. It's something about the struggle that glues the pieces together to form a beautiful self portrait wrapped in dignity, self awareness, pride and kente cloth. I developed this since of self worth in the company of some of the most successful and esteemed African American professors in their respective fields. Those 4-5 years (extra year for EDU majors) is where the Shana C Simms (Jones) as you know her today was born and I ain't (yes I said ain't) going back.
Instrumental in my life decisions, specifically education has been my little sister, Stacey. She's been watching me for 23, soon to be 24 years. Although, she may not admit it, I feel I have been a positive influence on her, or at least I tried to be. Funny thing is, she inadvertently has followed in my collegiate footsteps
. We have experienced some of the same character building moments and share similar memories that can only be made by HBCUs. As I did in May of 2012, she will cross the stage in a few weeks earning her college degree in History and I couldn't be more proud of her. Although I can't be there, I hope she can hear me yelling and being ethnic as we all are during graduations after being repeatedly told to hold your applause. To my my sister, I say it loud, Congratulations!!!!