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J. Zakia Johnson

#240 J. Zakia Johnson, Student
(Sociology, Anthropology, and People)

College was not a priority or conversation we regularly had in my household growing up and being the youngest of 23 siblings, it never crossed my mind to have dreams about pursuing higher education. In my family, the main focus was on getting married, raising a strong family, having a solid religious foundation and working hard. It wasn’t until I reached 6th grade career day, after the “professionals” left the class, the teacher asked the class to raise their hands and state what we wanted to be when we grew up. I can remember slinking down in my chair and not raising my hand. The question perplexed me because I had never given it a thought and hadn’t been asked, prior to that day. When I returned home that day, I thought about that question a lot. About a month or so later, the guidance counselor asked me the same question and this time, I was prepared. I proudly proclaimed that I was going to become a Pediatrician when I grew up. After some time lapsed, the guidance counselor stared at me with an amused and condescending look on her face, she calmly and matter -of -factly stated that “black girls do not become Doctors honey”. I was devastated. I decided then that the possibility of having dreams was not for me.

I grew up, graduated from high school, married, divorced, and had children. After working hard at a variety jobs, it finally hit me that I could never get ahead financially as a single parent unless I furthered my education. When I decided to make a serious change in my life for the betterment of my children and myself, I enrolled in College of the Desert. I was incredibly nervous wondering if I could really become a successful student at my age, with limited income, and several dependents. I was plagued with guilt at devoting such a large amount of time, energy, and resources, I really didn’t have, to something other than my children. However, I knew that I had to make a drastic change if I wanted to change our lives for the better.

After my first year of college, I found work at the COD Tutoring and Academic Skills Center, which I still work at. I applied for scholarships and to my humble surprise I was selected as a recipient. I am now a senior, graduating in spring with AA degrees in both, Sociology and Anthropology and plans to transfer to a four year university I have continuously maintained a GPA of 3.86, and I am member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. I am still a single parent fully committed to raising my children properly. I want my children to know that anything they dare to dream is achievable with dedication, determination and perserverence. I want them to value higher education and pursue their goals. I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I would not have gotten to this part of my academic journey without the support and encouragement from College of the Desert’s extraordinary Professors, Counselors, Faculty and Staff alongside, the financial assistance I have received from donors. I am eternally grateful and truly thankful that someone took the time to read my story and believe in me enough to acknowledge my hard work which allows students like me to have peace of mind and freedom to dare to dream.