Institution: The University of Southern Mississippi
Major: Medical Laboratory Science
I stepped foot on The University of Southern Mississippi's (USM) campus as a freshman in the fall of 2008. I entered as a Luckyday Scholar. I was excited about collegiate life and pursuing higher education. I was even nervous about the transition from high school to college; emotions I'm sure most of my fellow colleagues felt. Yet, there was something that separated me from my counterparts. I was the mother of a one year old--I was 17 when I had my daughter Serenity during my senior year of high school. My freshman year of college was a year of learning to balance, truly time manage, and cope with all emotions felt. Later, in 2009, I went on to have my son, Payton, as a sophomore in college. So now, here I was a 20 years old with two small children and still attending classes to ensure I would graduate on time.
I faced several challenges as a young parent and college student. I had to make sacrifices that most students my age did not have to make. I often worked two (but most times three) jobs to make ends meet. I tutored in math on campus and taught a chemistry lab because they were decent jobs that allowed me to work between classes. To consolidate time, I studied or graded papers in between classes. I tutored elementary students part-time at the library and worked a job on the weekends. The most significant and pivotal challenge for me, however, would have been deciding to end an extremely toxic relationship that I had been enduring for a good bit of my undergraduate career--I parted ways with the father of my children. I found myself in a place where I had to truly reevaluate my sanity, mental and physical health, and happiness. So, ultimately I broke free from the stronghold. Now, as the single mother of two, there was a lot ahead of me.
I honestly contribute my success and my sanity to God and my huge team of support. Although we had our differences, my children have always had an active father. And, I'm extremly grateful to have had supportive from grandparents on both ends. I cried many many many many nights but I prayed even harder. I studied as the kids slept, most nights barely getting any sleep at all. I still met the demands of my major, made the Dean's & President's lists a few times, and went on to graduate with a Bachelor's of Science in Medical Laboratory Science. Ultimately, my mind was set and I knew that I had to make things happen to not only improve my situation but to also show my children that no matter what, you CAN do what you put your mind to doing.
The one thing I want anyone reading this to remember is Proverbs 3: 5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart & lean not unto thy own understanding. In all thine ways acknowledge him and he shall make your path straight." I held this scripture near and dear to me and revisited it often throughout my journey and even still today. Sometimes we are faced with circumstances and brought up against things beyond our control for reasons we cannot foresee but we must trust Him.
Moral of the Story?
I think Bergandee's story is a great lesson to all of us about faith, strength, courage, self-awareness and fortitude. Her experiences are best summed up with this quote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson. So, set your eyes on your goals and don't stop until you reach them.
Love. Peace. Resilience.