“The college dropout”. Unless you’re Kanye West or Bill Gates, having this label attributed to you garners only negative attention. To be a college dropout is to be a wasted resource. “It’s a shame to see all that potential go to waste” is what most people say (behind the backs of the people to which they are referring). We hear you, though. You don’t have to say it to our faces because it shows in your eyes. Your body language expresses your contempt for us. It’s a good thing some of us don’t pay attention to your misguided attempts at encouragement, or else we may never get past the pain and onto success.
What follows is an interview conducted with Stephanie Danforth, who is the editor of Venus Diva Magazine. A strong believer in thinking outside of the box, Stephanie is passionately pursuing her dreams in accordance with her reality. She is working with her circumstances towards a path of even greater success.
Did you feel expectations from family, friends or society to succeed in college? If so, what impact did this pressure have on you?
Definitely, coming from a family full of college grads with Masters and PHd’s, being successful in college was the only route to go. Success as it relates to school started early on for me. My father was an English professor at a local college. My grandmother was an Administrative head at an elementary school, and my uncles were all teachers, so to not succeed in college was unheard of. I didn’t feel pressure to succeed. I thrive in pressure situations. It gets my blood boiling. The pressure of success didn’t have as much of an affect on me as the fact that I didn’t graduate. It’s not like I felt so much pressure that I couldn’t handle it.
How do friends and family treat you because you don’t have a college degree?
I’m not treated any differently by friends, but, at times, I feel like my brothers treat me a little differently. They treat me as if I am not as educated as they are, or don’t understand the struggles of a black college student. Hello, I went to college for over four years, and I don’t have a degree; if anyone understands the struggles, it’s me. My mom constantly tells me how I need to go back to school but when I think about the jobs that me and my brothers have had, it’s easy to view me as the most successful of the three. So, my question to them is often, “What did having a degree get you, since I’m making more than you?” Men can be competitive at times, so, sometimes, I have to go there with them.
How do you feel about yourself?
At times I am disappointed in myself not because I didn’t graduate, but because I let it bother me that I didn’t graduate. I’m proud of everything that I’ve accomplished and believe that everything happens for a reason, but sometimes I think not having a degree messes with my confidence.
Why did you leave school without a degree?
Why did I leave school? The first time I was put on short term suspension for grades and the second time, financial wouldn’t give me any more money. I guess the first time I left, I was gone too long and my loan defaulted. I think. I really don’t remember the details; all I know was that I ran out of money.
Do you plan to return to get a degree? If so, what is preventing you from returning in the immediate future?
I would like to, but once you start working and having a family, it’s easier said than done. Right now I have an application in at University of Phoenix; so, as soon as they call me for the job, I will enroll. When I ran out of aid, I promised myself and my mom that I was going to get my degree, and get someone to pay for it. If I could afford it, I would, but I can’t; so, U of P, here I come.
What is the biggest myth equated with dropouts that you would like to dispel?
That we are incapable of working in corporate America. There is nothing that anyone does that cannot be taught. Having a degree does not make you that much smarter. People seldom go into a career path where their degree can be useful. In my eyes, asking for a person with a degree is nothing more than trying to weed out what’s considered good from bad.
Many people have had to leave school for reasons other than the stereotypical “college just isn’t for me” attitude; and, many would like to return to get their degree, but existing roadblocks make it difficult. Support education reform to enable the passionate people to more efficiently achieve their dreams.