My parents’ pursuit of education has inspired me to succeed

Morgan Bettin-Coleman is a 2017 Cecil E. Newman Scholarship recipient. Her scholarship-winning essay appears below.

Morgan Bettin-Coleman (left) being presented with her certificate by Desha Russell from the Minnesota State Baptist Convention (Travis Lee/MSR News)

Even when I was a little girl, I would often pass time sprawled on the floor, usually reading a book. Close by, both of my parents sat at desks, spending hours typing up documents or highlighting pages in long, seemingly boring books. My mother has shown me the picture of her walking at graduation to get her master’s degree, her baby bump slightly noticeable under her black gown.

I was born less than a month after that day. I also acutely remember both of my parents’ graduation days –– the exciting culmination of years of hard work, education, and experiences that result in the attainment of a doctorate degree. Because of this, every time I fill out a form with the question “Indicate the highest level of education completed by your parents or guardians,” I feel incredibly proud to be able to choose “doctoral degree” for both my mother and father.

Although clearly significant, my parents’ commitment to obtaining higher education is not the only thing about them that consistently inspires and motivates me. From my mother, I have inherited my desire to promote social justice and equity within our society.

She has taught me how to notice microaggressions, respond to discrimination, and how to not just explain the existence of biases to others, but also how to listen to and understand their beliefs and perspectives.

Furthermore, my mom truly epitomizes the image of the “working mother.” Not only does she work full time, but she also manages to maintain the household and take care of me, along with many other things that likely go unnoticed. Even more inspiring is how she was a single mother for a few years during my childhood. I constantly tell my mother how much I truly aspire to be like her, and I continue to work towards this every day.

My father, on the other hand, consistently inspires me just as much. From elementary school through college, he wasn’t incredibly successful academically, but he triumphed in multiple athletic venues. In fact, his football skills brought him to college, making him the first member of his family to do so.

My dad’s understanding of people and his business savvy led to his thriving career in Human Resources and Strategic Planning. He learned to overcome various academic obstacles, including dyslexia and ADHD, to pursue higher education opportunities. Currently, he holds the position of vice president of Human Resources at the University of the Bahamas.

My father’s prestige in his career contradicts the portrayal by the media that African American men can only be criminals, athletes, rappers, or comedians, and that most of them are deadbeat dads. Although he has achieved great personal success, my dad maintains strong connections with his family, and does everything with lightheartedness and a smile on his face, frequently telling stories or cracking jokes.

Throughout high school, I have achieved the status of valedictorian, been recognized as a National Merit Commended Scholar, and earned a varsity letter in speech and an AP Scholar Award, among other scholastic achievements. My accomplishments are a result of my hard work, but I would not have been able to achieve them without the love and support constantly provided by my parents.

Furthermore, my desire to perform well academically and to further my education stemmed from watching my parents persistently work hard in their studies. The personal qualities and social skills I have acquired from my parents also contribute to my academic success. I am immensely grateful to be in my current position, and I realize that graduation truly is a family affair.