Keeping Black Women in College: How I’m Doing My Part

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by Amber Wright

As the first person in my family to graduate from college, obtaining my bachelor’s degree was a major accomplishment. Finishing college was my primary goal for so long, after I graduated from school, I had no clue what to do next. There was no blueprint for me to follow on what I was going to do with that degree and I had no idea about how to build a career.

I spent a few years working full time and then made the decision to go back to school and obtain my master’s degree. Because of the five year gap between the time I had received my BA to when I started my MA, I had a better idea of how I was going to use this second degree once I was done.

Teaching was always something that lingered in the back of my mind as potential career options. This time around, I created a plan for my education that included teaching college courses part time with my MA and supplementing that income with running my own small business.

It has been four years since I completed my master’s and I am currently teaching courses as an adjunct instructor at my local community college. I also have a full time job in higher education and am slowing working on growing my coaching and speaking business on the side.

Out of all the things I’m doing at the moment, the call for me to continue to teach gets louder and louder each day. You see, female minority women make up the majority of the student population at the school for which I teach. As I stand before them every semester, I recognize that I represent what is possible for them. I am the blueprint for many of my students that I didn’t have when I was an undergraduate. I embrace my unexpected role as a mentor and role model to them – especially for my Black female students.

A new video produced by creators, Lamar and Ronnie Tyler affirms for me why I need to continue teaching and serve as a mentor to my students.

Truths You Won’t Believe: Black Women Defying Stereotypes

The video stars Janks Morton and in it he shares the applause-worthy statistic that 50.4% of African American women ages 18-24 are enrolled in college (according to the US Census Bureau, October 2012).

Well done, ladies!

What this means for me is that when the small number of that percentage of women cross the threshold of my classroom, I have the opportunity to encourage them to not just matriculate, but to graduate. By sharing my experiences and being transparent about what it took for me to get my education, I hope to inspire and motivate them to pursue their dreams. I want them to know that despite any potential challenges and adversities they may face, it is worth it to keep going.

Another video of students of color enrolled in UCLA law school shed light on the chilling reality of isolation Black students face while pursuing their degrees. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a community to support that child when they become an adult and enter the real world. As an educator

and professional in higher education, I am part of that community. I try to do what I can to be a source of support for my students and to make the journey a little less intimidating.

I see myself in many of them and desire to be the helping hand I needed at that time in my life. If we want to see more Black women and other people of color taking their rightful places as leaders in this society, we must be willing to help them get there.

Tell us, For Harriet family: was there a teacher or staff person that inspired you when you were in school? Shout them out below.

Amber L. Wright, M.A.  is an adjunct professor, writer, communication coach and creator of Her personal mission is to teach you how to hear and be heard in every area of your life - from the boardroom to the bedroom. Wright’s areas of interest and expertise are in communication, relationships, marriage and popular culture.

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