Ms. Blake’s essay was originally written as a speech, which she presented at a Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation gala.
For women like me, the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation made all the difference.
I faced many obstacles when I first decided to begin my academic career, including homelessness, abuse, the death of my father, an attempted suicide, poverty and substance abuse in the home, illness, single motherhood, being a victim of armed robbery, the death of my 13-year-old brother from meningitis, miscarriage, depression, anxiety, and much more. Though the odds clearly were stacked against me, I did not falter. My faith may have wavered, but I stood strong in my belief that I would finish what I had started and use my adversity as fuel to make it to the finish line. More important, I needed to be an example for my children.
My “middle” began in 2014, just after the death of my brother. There were more than 300 people at his funeral, and it made me realize the impact he had on so many in his short time on earth. I knew that because God gave me the gift of life, I could not waste the opportunity to make an impact in this world. I continued to take classes at DelTech, eventually transferring to Wilmington University as a full-time student. I was also a mother of two, a wife, and a full-time employee for Child Support Services.
I had many sleepless nights and early mornings. Family time was often cut short. My social life was nonexistent. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I yelled, but I always kept pressing forward. I was determined not to allow my and my family’s sacrifice be in vain. And because of my dear friend, Latoya Rodriguez, I became aware of the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation. Not only was I able to pay for my college tuition, but also my books and other necessary tools. Without this foundation, I would not have been able to afford most of my college education nor complete the accelerated program at WilmU. I remember the first time I met my Fresh Start mentor, Mary Maloney, and I cried while thanking her for founding such a fundamental foundation. For women like me, it made all the difference between a successful career and destitution.
When I finally got to the last semester of my bachelor’s program, I was still working full-time and attending school full-time — taking five online classes. It took dedication, discipline and commitment, not to mention the fact that I was pregnant with my third child. I thought to myself, You’re absolutely insane and a glutton for punishment. On May 16, 2017, I gave birth to our rainbow baby, Riley. She’s perfect, just like my eldest daughter Kyndol, and my son Ja’Cori. And on May 21, 2017, I walked across the stage at the Chase Center on the Riverfront as a Wilmington University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science and a certificate in Child Advocacy. My overall GPA was of 4.0. I was a Summa Cum Laude graduate and a member of Delta Epsilon Rho honor society. The joy I felt that day was indescribable.
Currently, I’m an administrative specialist for the Division of Family Services and plan to pursue my master’s in Social Work. In the meantime, I’m enjoying spending time with my family and working on hobbies like motivational speaking and cosmetology.
My message: Remember that it’s OK to ask for help and guidance. True strength is found in one’s ability to be humble enough to ask questions and admit that you don’t have all the answers. You will make mistakes. You may have to take a break from your education. Life happens, and though we like to control destiny, we must realize that we don’t always control the journey.
The Serenity Prayer is my favorite because it’s three-dimensional. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. I encourage you all to do just that: believe in yourselves and always keep pressing forward. WU
For more info about Fresh Start, visit freshstartscholarship.org.
– Kristin Blake, WilmU Alumna