"A Different World:" My Stepping Stone To College

"A Different World:" My Stepping Stone To College

How a TV show opened my eyes about higher education.
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I always told people, “It was my mother, my sister, and 'A Different World' who helped me on my path to college." My mother was a single mother and a student at Medgar Evers College getting her nursing degree. I was a toddler at the time, coming with her to school. My sister, Nneka, went through obstacles in her life, but that never stopped her and she graduated college. "A Different World" was a TV show that let me know that people of color can get a higher education and make something of themselves. We don’t have to be stereotypes, we can be better and do better in our lives.

"A Different World" ran from 1987 to 1993 on NBC. Around that time, I was a baby and really wasn’t watching the show, but I knew my sisters did. When they started showing repeats of the show on various channels, I was older, and that’s when I started watching. "A Different World" was focused on Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) going off to her parent’s Alma Mater, Hillman College, a fictional college in Virginia. What I love about this show was that Denise wasn’t an honor student. She wasn’t an A+ student, she was just a trying to get by and finish college. Even though her grades weren’t the best, she made do. Denise did what she had to do to get by, even when she had to call her parents to get out of a jam. She realized that there are things that you have to do for yourself, without your parents' help, and she did just that.

In the second season, Lisa Bonet left "A Different World," because she was pregnant with her daughter, Zoe. The concept of Lisa’s character on the show was “The girl next door." It wasn’t a good look that she was 20 and with child on the show. The show then focused was on Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison) and Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy), two people who hated each other in the beginning, but ended up together at the end.

"A Different World" also tackled with a lot of issues at that time, like teen pregnancy, the apartheid in South Africa, HIV/AIDS, racism, and sexual harassment, just to name a few, and they showed you the view of being in a HBCU (Historically Black College Universities) and academic and social views of college life, like Greek Life. I knew, when I got older, that I wanted to go to college, because I didn’t want to be yet another statistic about the Black community and I didn't want kids yet. I wanted the higher education, I wanted the degree, and I wanted to graduate with honors, because that showed me that we, as African Americans, we have the mindset, we have the power of making it in the world and doing something with what we learned in college.

Now that I’m much older and graduating college, I can say that "A Different World" showed me a view of being in an all-black college and knowing that you don’t have to be a number, you don’t have to be on the streets, hustling, or be a statistic with three or four kids (that’s how some people view African Americans, that we are lazy and we don’t do anything). That’s not the case here. More African American men and women are going to college and even going on to get their Masters. "A Different World" was a stepping stone for me; it showed me I can do anything, not only as a woman, but as an African American woman. I just have to set my mind to my goals and reach them.

I wish there were more shows like "A Different World" to show that getting an education is a beautiful thing, but also it's also a privilege that we should be honored to have. To this day, I still watch the show on Netflix, because my mom, my sister, and "A Different World" pushed me to make the choice to further my education and reach my dreams, no matter what.

Cover Image Credit: Mental_Floss

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Netflix broke everyone's heart and then stitched them back together within a matter of 12 hours the other day.

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What Do You Do When Tragedy Strikes Your Former Home?

In my desperate attempt to figure this out, I'm writing about it.

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On November 8th, I woke up with a voicemail from my mom. It went a little like this,

"Hey, it's Momma. I'm sorry it's really early your time, but I wanted to have you hear from me before you got the news on. There was a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks last night at a country bar about ten minutes from where our house was in Moorpark. There are 12 people dead, the shooter is dead, and a cop. It was college night at the bar, so anyone over 18 could go in. There were students from multiple colleges there, that's all they know so far. It's just horrible." And so on. I made it about halfway through the voicemail before I pulled out my laptop.

A thousand thoughts ran through my mind. This is what is referred to as one of the safest towns in America. This town was a short drive away from my home in Moorpark. These people are mostly my age. Then, the worst one occurred to me. What if when they display the victims' pictures, I recognize a face?

According to USAToday, the Thousand Oaks shooting is the 307th shooting on the 311th day of 2018. Are we supposed to allow ourselves to be desensitized to this gun violence? I sure hope not. I'll save you the agony of listening to how the rest of my day went. Long story short, I watched the news and cried more than I'd like to admit.

As the day carried on, I watched the pictures come up on my computer screen. I scrolled through social media and looked at my friend's posts of their friends being safe. Somehow, that did not calm me down. I watched the victim's faces pop up one by one on my laptop, and I listened to the stories.

All country music lovers, all college students, all heroes who helped save the lives of others before they lost their own. It was not until Friday that I realized I did recognize one of the faces. I logged onto my Facebook to get rid of a notification, and there it was. A picture of my childhood swim coaches, and Noel Sparks. Now, I understand that it's been years, but that doesn't make it any better. Each victim of the shooting had so much more life to be lived, and my heart breaks for each one of them. I send all of my love to the family, friends, and everyone affected by the Borderline shooting.

Not even a day later, there was news of a fire that is rapidly spreading. According to CBS News, The Woolsey fire has burned 98,362 acres of land and is only about 57% contained. While this fire has only 3 confirmed fatalities, the second fire that is burning in California has taken the lives of 56 people and burned 140,000 acres of land. I can spit out as many facts as my fingers can research, but it doesn't change the fact that my heart aches for my former home. When all of this tragedy happens and I'm 1,835 miles away, I have never felt so helpless. I donated to the victim's families, but I have not found a way to make sense of this in my mind. Why do these things happen? There's no concrete answer to this question, so am I going to wonder it forever?

If you would like to find a place to donate to the Borderline victims' families, click here. If you would like to find a place to donate to the victims' of the fires, click here.

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