You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know…Until You Know It
I had heard this saying a lot when I was growing up. I use it now as I look back on my experiences with education. I grew up in Lorain, OH my entire life. We were known for… not much honestly. All I knew was that too many people told me I needed to focus on “getting out” of Lorain. My parents were high school sweethearts who were constantly pushing my brother and I to go to college. This was a goal of mine before I even knew what a goal was! I had the privilege of having my mother as a stay at home mom while my father worked day in and day out in the assembly line at Ford. With nothing more than two high school diplomas and my father’s four-year term in the Navy, my parents settled down and began their family in Lorain, OH.
Growing up in Lorain, I knew nothing outside of my city. My mother was amazing and my father provided for us every way he could. We were all that we needed. We had it good and were fairly sheltered from the world around us, so much so that we could barely see our little city crashing down.
I recall when I was in middle school, a shooting took place at our local high school and my parents decided that they would move to give us a better opportunity. We moved to a smaller district within Lorain and began middle school there. Middle school was a time of growth for me. I made new friends with so many different stories then what I had known growing up. The ways that we were raised were so different and I often wondered how kids dealing with so much could show up to school everyday and want to learn? At the time I didn’t realize, but looking back, I now know that learning often times didn’t take place at school, but instead at home. My mom pushed me to read books. My teachers obviously supported it. But for many of my peers, they were not offered these same benefits. Many of my peers fell behind. During this time, many of them stopped showing up. I remember being told by teachers that kids were going to the detention home for not coming to school. This scared me and I knew I had to make sure I was coming to school.
High school only brought more education disparity. Not only were my peers behind but I was also slacking. I was encouraged to do the bare minimum to get by, so that is exactly what I did. At this time my mom enrolled in the community college. She instilled in me the importance of education. This was a turning point in my educational experience. From that point I knew that I really did want to go to college, whereas many of my peers did not see college as a possibility or even a viable option. I took the courses I needed to take and was offered the privilege of taking college classes through the local community college. Many of my peers struggled to graduate or at times, show up. Teachers began pushing kids through despite their grades they would say things like, “I can’t have you again next year.” I watched as the system failed my peers and it only got worse from here.
Summer of 2014, I went away to college. When I got to college it was no walk in the park. Throughout high school I had breezed by, now I could barely pass algebra at the college level. I struggled. I was never taught how to handle financial aid or what I needed to maintain it. That when I dropped too many classes because I was struggling, I could actually lose it? To sum it up, I was screwed. I had no one to talk to. I felt alone. It seemed like no one could relate to me. Learning did not come as easy as it did in high school. In high school, I passed my classes simply by showing up. Now they expect me to remember things and read a lot and take tests. They want me to think critically? I was never taught that… what even is that? How do I do this?
I freaked out. I couldn't do it.
Not to mention the things that were taking place back home that I could not help but focus on. My world was crashing down around me and no one understood. All in all, I felt uneducated and out of place, maybe college just wasn’t for people like me. That’s what I believed. Until I read a book. The first book I picked up during my college years was the “Autobiography of Fredrick Douglas”. In this book I finally realized the importance of education. I recalled the way that it was withheld from slaves during that time to keep people enslaved. If people had received their education (reading, writing, etc.) they would be empowered, which was too threatening to slave owners. It reminded me of my city.
After reading about Frederick Douglas’ life I can recall gaining a desire to learn and grow in knowledge. The remainder of my college experience was difficult, but I made it. I completed my Bachelor’s in Social Work and am currently pursuing my Masters in Social Work. I have moved back home to Lorain, OH and I have a strong desire to assist in improving our education system and give back to my city. People don't know what they don’t know, or what they have been deprived of knowing. I now know my city has been stripped of the opportunity to receive adequate education. Thanks to my education, I learned the privilege of education and now have the opportunity to empower, encourage and inspire others to reach their education goals.
College has been one of the most amazing, difficult experiences of my life! I would encourage anyone going to college to trust the process and don't take it for granted. This will be an amazing time to learn and grow as an individual and when you feel like it isn’t for you that means you are making a new path for others to follow after you. Break barriers, mark your path and do what you love! This is a great way for us to create change in our communities and break the chains that are keeping so many communities held down and stuck in the cycle of poverty. Change truly starts with you! Good luck and enjoy your experience! Wishing you the best of luck!
Rebecca was born in Lorain , Ohio where she graduated from Clearview High School in 2014. Rebecca completed her Bachelor’s of Social Work at The Ohio State University in May of 2018 and is currently working towards a Masters in Social Work. While attending The Ohio State University, Rebecca focused much of her time and efforts providing evidence-based programming at middle schools and mentoring youth on the near east side of Columbus. Rebecca is currently working as an intensive home based therapist in her home town where she focuses on providing children and families with the tools and resources they need to be successful. She has spent much of her time working to assist youth in low-income neighborhoods build positive relationship skills, enhance positive decision making skills and develop goals for their academic and professional futures. Rebecca is interested in continuing to provide psychoeducational services to youth and families in low-income neighborhoods, as well as, providing community based programming interventions to meet the needs of the communities she works in.
Rebecca Educational History:
2014 - HS Graduate, Clearview Local School District
2018 - BS in social work, The Ohio State University
In progress - Master’s of Social Work, The Ohio State University