Every life has a story and that story deserves to be told. I woke up this morning feeling as though I had just fallen asleep. Last night was filled with the wonders of London and I, I took them all in. This morning, as I walked up to the group on time but late for breakfast, I figured I can afford to miss a few meals, this waist trainer is fighting a soon to be losing battle with my midsection. My cohort, cohort 9 knows that I am a “foodie” and I would sell my wardrobe for a good plate of sugary delights. As I was told that I might need to get a small to go breakfast by my professor, I smiled thinking to myself “you don’t have to tell me twice.” With my crusty, butter croissant in a paper cup I was off to St. George’s University of London.
My first impression of St. George’s was that the hallways and labs reminded me of my days at Bennett College for Women. The University has caring faculty and staff (it was evident in their passionate discussion) yet, like many US HBCUs (this is not one) the repair of portions of the physical structure has been deferred until funding can support much needed repairs. This institution has what many HBCUs have and that’s grit. While I noticed some of the walls had signs of wear and water spots, and portions of the institution was outdated. What I loved about (yes, love) the institution is that they are making “do” with what they have and like many HBCUs, they are taking what many would consider second class facilities and producing first rate minds. It was a marvel to note that they have rooms, spaces for “think tank” approaches to medicine. Here, the institution has discovered that the cures to medicine is not always found in a book but can be unlocked in the minds of the right individuals if given the creative space. As I passed rooms that were small, and equipped with dry eraser boards the length and width of the walls, I realized that what they lacked in financial assets, they made up in creativity and heart.
The administrators and professor that invested their time into us were passionate about what it is they do, how they do it and how students learn. While my interests are not relegated or closely related to medicine, I left the discussion amazed that institutions are facing some of the same challenges HBCUs face and I am interested in seeing how they overcome these challenges. This evening’s dinner did not disappoint. Amidst the grilled chicken potatoes and salad, I enjoyed talking with members of the traditional program in Higher Education Administration. As we bid each other good night, I walked with Doug to check out the shops on our way back to the hotel. As we lightly talked, well, as I did most of the talking and he politely listened. I said “Doug, every life has a story and that story deserves to be told.” He said you are right, but why do you say that? I talked to him about grit and how grit is why I smile, speak and talk to everyone regardless of their station in life. I began sharing with him an assignment that I recently presented with my cohort. I shared with him a presentation we did on nontraditional students, single parents in higher education and began describing a student that was formerly homeless while pregnant, a recipient of food stamps, and often needing assistance with rent and utilities while bringing her baby to class due to having minimal childcare support. I shared with him how I could vividly paint the picture of such a student, because I was that student and Bennett College for Women was the place that I sharpened my “grit” with grace.
I don’t know why I shared a portion of my story tonight. Perhaps it was the the calming effects of a splendid meal. Perhaps it was the ambiance of being in another country and allowing a colleague a brief glimpse onto the pages of my life. Perhaps I chose to share because every life, like the life of St. George’s University of London has a story and like theirs mine deserves to be told.