Education and Community Expand Choices

Do you have a recollection of events when you were younger that had an impact on the person you are today?
I was talking with a friend recently about growing up in inner-city Dallas and how I was afforded opportunities at a young age. Before I was born, my mom taught at Lipscomb Elementary in East Dallas. She had a colleague named Brenda Kirby. They became good friends and so Brenda has always been in my life as long as I can remember.

Opportunities can start from an early age

When I was in sixth grade, Brenda encouraged me to attend SAT tutoring sessions at a place called University Outreach – a local program where teachers helped high school students with strategies, tips, and academic instruction for the SAT. Honestly, the algebra and geometry concepts were rather foreign to my 11-12 year old mind, but I attended the sessions, none the less. It was fun to be around the “grown up” high school kids.

The summer after sixth grade, Brenda invited me to a high school enrichment prep course at Mountain View Community College – a program put together by some of the local teachers that was offered at no cost to local students. We studied, higher-level (at least higher level for that age) mathematics and science. I remember all the teachers being very passionate about their particular subject and helping students learn these new concepts. Even though I was an “outsider” due to my age, the older kids were encouraging and we of course went hog wild when they let us in the gym to play basketball. I learned a lot that summer.

Because of Brenda helping me and pushing me from a young age, I was able to test into Algebra I upon entering seventh grade at Spence Middle School. Granted, by that age, my priorities were changing from academics to socializing, so I struggled, but Brenda would still have me call her every night to go over that day’s assignment. I remember her threatening to talk to my teacher to put me into pre-algebra if I didn’t get my act together, after a few lackadaisical approaches to some homework assignments. Somehow I made it through.

brenda-kirbyBrenda Kirby

I attended the same summer enrichment program after eighth grade at Mountain View, with a whole new perspective…and at the grade level. I was fortunate to be able to take Ms. Kirby’s Algebra II class by the time I was a freshman…and of course she was hard on me again. Throughout high school, I continued attending classes at University Outreach, where Brenda and one of her colleagues, Michele Bobadilla, taught and facilitated educational opportunities for students across the city. What’s funny is as a kid, we go through these motions that we are told are beneficial, but don’t necessarily see the power…the magnitude of the positive actions of those around us until we get older.

Why does Be About Change provide scholarships?

People often ask, “What led you to found the nonprofit?” or “why did you decide to offer scholarships?” The short answer is…a lifetime of misdirected energy (though I usually am more honest with a few expletives), and almost a sort of penance or attempt to balance on my part. What I have found is, education – formal or otherwise – and experience expand our perspectives on what is possible.

You hear the old cliche “anything is possible” and while we could debate all day long about things like matter and antimatter, the intricacies of human experience, and psychological development, we, in a sense, over complicate otherwise simple things by trying to explain them. The fact of the matter is people generally respond positively to positive reinforcement. The reality of our world is, not everyone is fortunate to have people like Brenda so close to them in their lives. However, in our society, it is difficult to go through life and not encounter someone that cares about us and our future.

The possibility of college was a seed planted in me as early as sixth grade, without me even knowing it. Some people say “college isn’t for everyone.” And – as with anything else in life – not every experience is for everyone. We (Be About Change) try to accommodate this by offering scholarships for anything that is higher education, not limiting that to a four-year university. However, I firmly believe education and pursuit of education and new experiences facilitate this expansion of our perspective of available choices.

Education and experience build confidence

When I had a sedentary, self-destructive lifestyle, I wouldn’t have even thought to walk or run any sort of meaningful distance. After I quit smoking and started exercising, running up the big hill in the neighborhood was not only daunting, it was uncharted territory and intimidating. I failed the first several times, stopping halfway up, either due to exhausted lungs or sore quads. One morning I finally conquered it, and have conquered it every time since. Why? Because my perspective of what was possible grew from having had that experience.


So it is with education. Living in Nashville for some time now, I’ve gotten to know people at organizations like the YMCA and Big Brothers Big Sisters, that work to nurture and facilitate opportunities, in much the same way that Brenda and University Outreach did for me. And this is why – perhaps at the onset, subconsciously – we have chosen to raise funds for scholarships for students from low-income households…to do our part to pass on what was so graciously given to us.

If we are honest with ourselves, we can acknowledge that a large part of who and where we are today is a result of the help of those around us. If we truly get to the core of our existence and our being, we are not unlike rays of the sun…all part of the same sun…all functioning in tandem with one another. By making ourselves and those around us stronger, we make our world stronger.

Help Students Achieve

Your donations help provide scholarships for students.  By impacting young hearts and minds with scholarships, you not only facilitate more access to higher education, you also show our youth we are all in this together – an attitude that yields exponential returns for generations to come.  Thank you for your generosity, and please continue to help students achieve.  Please consider making a donation.


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Marcel Hernandez

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