The summer of 2013 was like no other, as this was the summer I met “The Overcomer” and he reminded me why I chose to be an educator at LCC.
For “The Overcomer,” he viewed this program as his last chance to break the cycle established by the men in his family and earn his high school diploma.
As a Native American raised on a reservation, “The Overcomer” endured gang beatings/bullying for being from the “wrong tribe” and a sub-standard education. Witnessing the death of his best friend, “The Overcomer” turned to alcohol to numb the pain.
Geometry was a true challenge for “The Overcomer,” and often times he felt defeated. His past educational inadequacies seemed to have such a strong hold on him that it looked as if he was going to succumb. Together we worked through concepts, breaking each down to its most primal state.
As the final weeks of the semester surfaced, “The Overcomer” began to get distracted. When I inquired, he shared that he was going to become a father and he needed a job. We discussed possible options and together agreed that the high school diploma was the key. Again that renewed sense of determination resurfaced as he had an additional goal: to make his unborn child proud of his father. Through long hours, extra sessions, and determination “The Overcomer” conquered geometry.
When I was asked to be the keynote speaker for HSDCI’s 2014 graduation, my thoughts returned to “The Overcomer.” Would he be a part of this graduating class or had the outside challenges of his everyday life claimed him? As I prepared to speak, a slideshow presentation began to play and there among the graduates was “The Overcomer”! During my speech, I searched the audience and when our eyes connected we exchanged knowing smiles. When it came time for the graduates to say a few words and receive their diplomas, “The Overcomer” along with his newborn son moved us all to tears.
As he shared his journey with us, I began to reflect on the schools’ mission to improve the quality of life of its students. This exemplified “The Overcomer.” Not only had he received his high school diploma, but he had also earned 20 credits towards an associate’s degree. My tears began to flow even more, not because he was graduating, but because he had broken the cycle. When asked what was next for him, “The Overcomer” turned to his son and said, “My bachelor’s degree by the time he starts school so that he can be proud of me.” Little did he know: His son already was and so was I.