I was just coming off an extraordinary week of meeting Professor Thomas Nazario when I received a phone call inviting me to attend a special VIP event with local dignitaries from the Maricopa Community College system, Northern Arizona University and ASU. The special guest was Dr. Jill Biden. The opportunity of the meeting was to discuss the importance of the Community College and retaining student while preparing to transfer to a university and complete a bachelors program. I knew little about Jill Biden with the exception of her being the wife of Vice President Joe Biden. I did my research and found Jill is an exceptionally educated woman. Jill is in her 15th year at a Community College in Delaware, where she teaches English composition. She also spent 13 years in the public schools, where she was a Reading specialist and English teacher as well as a part-time teacher with Rockford Psychiatric Hospital Adolescent Program.
While working full-time and raising a family, Jill earned two masters degrees: a Master's degree in English from Villanova University (1987) and a Master's degree in reading from West Chester University (1981). And this past January, Jill earned a Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware in 2007. Her dissertation focused on how to retain students in community colleges.
There was a small group of about 20 invited to the home of Sandra Day O'Connor located within The Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park. We gathered after 5 pm for introductions and a social hour. It was incredible to see Air Force Two flying directly overhead on the way to Sky Harbor and within 20 minutes Dr. Biden and her staff had arrived and we were ready for introductions. I was one of four students asked to come and share my story of why I made the commitment to return to school. I sat next to Bob Shireman, Deputy Under Secretary with the U.S. Department of Education and Arizona State President Michael Crow. It was an amazing evening.
For me it was very interesting to be a room so politically diverse. Yet no one was wearing their party affiliation on their sleeve. The common consensus was an urgency to encourage a greater awareness of the community college and the vast opportunities and programs that await students. President Obama has pledged his support and the necessary resources to help students who are willing to commit to finishing their programs and graduate.
Little did I realize a year ago where I would be standing today... The loss of my job has turned into one of the greatest blessings of my life. The opportunities that have come my way to meet such influential people and work with them is extraordinary. I have relished every minute of this experience.
I am getting ready to close out my spring semester. I have worked hard and will have earned more than just high marks. I am learning, new perspectives, new paths to take, being open to the differences that make each one of us unique. It's refreshing to let new ideas take hold.
I am so thankful every minute of the day. My life is so rich and filled with good things! For me the greater opportunity is to live my life knowing I am my own person, free to experience all of the opportunities that await me, no longer burdened with old pattens of thought and habit that never served me well.
It's empowering to understand who you are.... it's life changing to love and accept yourself and your potential.. it's success when you apply both and live your life with intensity and purpose.
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