by Staff Sgt. Nellie Black
Cyber Surety Office
3/7/2013 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Education
is power! I now understand this statement because I've empowered myself
with education. My struggle with school began early compared to my
peers. My mother's limited education impacted my academic growth;
however, I eventually became a first-generation college graduate.
As a young child, I never cared for school -- my teachers merely
provided childcare while my mother worked. I earned poor grades, but my
mother never corrected me or provided guidance. Unfortunately, she only
completed the second grade and was unable to assist me with my studies.
Although she did learn to read and write, she could not to convey the
importance of school to me. In fourth grade, after a parent/teacher
conference, my mother said, "Nellie you have to do better." However, she
never told me why -- and I really needed the why. Though my interest in
school became less and less, somehow I made it to high school. I
applied and interviewed with a highly regarded fashion school and to my
surprise, I was accepted. Unfortunately, this did not change my attitude
toward education; from my perspective if I could travel by myself
(subway), I should be able to make my own decisions. I hung out with
friends and did things I should not have been doing.
I was headed downhill; I had no aspirations or dreams. My only possible
goal was a GED. Then I met a person that turned my life around. His
family believed strongly in education and the American dream. He said,
"Nellie I don't want a GED or drop-out girl. If you want to be with me,
you have to graduate high school." He lit a desire for education that
still continues today; he completely changed my life.
I needed a change. I convinced my mother to enroll me in an alternative
school away from my present environment and so-called friends. I set a
goal to graduate high school and do the best I could. I began to shine
in my academics and became an A/B student. School became fun and easy,
and I became motivated to improve even more and achieved the A honor
roll. I never looked back. My capabilities were much greater than I
realized, and I had an intense desire for success. I graduated as a
distinguished graduate from high school and met the mayor of New York
City. With this beginning, I enrolled in the respected school John Jay
College and majored in criminal justice.
With many other changes in my life, I transferred to Central Texas
College and earned my associate's degree in General Studies. I wanted to
pursue a bachelor's in kinesiology, but the cost was prohibitive. I
continued to look for solutions and met with a student advisor who
offered only one option: student loans. I was not interested in a
student loan and continued to look for another way. It's amazing how God
shows you a path when you least expect it. When my cousin told me about
the Air Force and the opportunities and benefits, a light bulb went on.
I quickly made an appointment and the recruiter explained the
educational benefits to include the Montgomery G.I. Bill and the tuition
assistance program. I joined.
I joined the Air Force for education; however, my career became the
priority and school hit the back burner. I still completed classes when I
could and quickly earned my Community College of the Air Force degree
by combining my previous degree and a few other classes paid for by
tuition assistance. I received kudos for attaining my CCAF degree and
then earned a second CCAF Degree and a bachelor's in Human Resources
I'm proud of my achievements, but they did not satisfy my need for
education -- I'm currently enrolled in a master's of business
administration program with a minor in marketing. I'm excited about this
and believe it will be difficult ... but well worth it.
My message to anybody reading is this: you can't control what life
you're given, but you can control what you make of it. In my life, the
struggles could easily have limited me. Instead, I've used them for
motivation and turned them into success. Remember, education is a
journey, not a destination.