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Michele and JJ Wade

Award Winning Essay

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Michele dropped out of high school because she had her first child eighteen days before her sixteenth birthday. She completed her schooling (GED), worked full time, and a few years later, with three young children and while pregnant with the fourth, she was able to successfully accomplish going to college to start working towards her degree. She had a 4.0 grade point average, served as SGA President and was a Student Ambassador for the college.

Michele had started making plans to return to the college to finish her schooling just prior to being killed in the accident. Approximately two weeks after Michele’s death, Chris Smith from Paul D. Camp Community College brought me a copy of the following speech Michele gave in Richmond, Virginia. I had never seen this speech before, so if you can imagine, it was as if Michele was talking to me... even though she was gone.

"Although I was a single-teenage parent, I never lost sight of the value of an education and my desire to obtain a college degree. Being a good mother, means taking care of oneself, as well as taking care of your children. As a matter of fact, it was during the process of volunteering at my son’s school, that the Librarian began to encourage me on a weekly basis to do more. I had already done some studying and obtained my General Education Diploma but she rekindled my desire to get a college degree. It is not just for my children, it is my inner most desire to achieve some level of personal success. My self esteem and self perception and that feeling of pride that children have in their parents when one is successful have always been my driving force. Community colleges have always served as second chance institutions and Paul D. Camp Community College has been that for me. The community college has allowed me the opportunity to be a full time student, while also being a full time parent. Unlike many of the students who just come back to school for their academic pursuits, I feel that it is just as important to participate and take advantage of the many personal development opportunities that the college has to offer. I have developed leadership and organizational skills that I know will contribute as much to my life time success as the academic accomplishments. I have served as the SGA President and as a Student Ambassador at the college for the last academic year. I can not say what the future holds for me and my family, but I do know that I will successfully complete my studies and find a meaningful way to give back to my community and those who believed in me.

My Mother has been and still is my strongest supporter and role model. She has always been there for me and has shown me that it is the positive relationships which we develop with others along the way that truly makes the difference in life. Being a single-teenage parent has forced me to understand adversity and what it takes to overcome mistakes and to persevere."

Paul D. Camp Community College

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