Karen Parrish Baker
I am a transplanted Buckeye from near Cincinnati. I understand challenges first-generation college students from low-income backgrounds because I was one. My parents, whose life circumstances did not enable them to complete high school, dreamed and made sure their children graduated. However, it was the teachers at my predominately African-American schools who saw potential, sowed the seeds to achieve, and encouraged me to dream bigger and pursue college.
At first I thought I wanted to be a high school educator and teach psychology, a subject I loved in high school. It never occurred to me all colleges did not offer psychology majors and the one I chose was one that did not. Strike 1. My sophomore year I was short of money to return to school; my Dad took out a loan he could not afford so I could return and I worked multiple jobs to make up the difference. Strike 2. My senior year, while doing student teaching, I realized I did not want to teach high school. What could have been Strike 3 became the opportunity to change career direction to working with college students: in residence halls, academic support programs, student services, and eventually as a college instructor. Through these transitions I found my professional purpose.
As I reflected on my young adult years, I realized my bumpy road through college did not have be as difficult as it was had I known about TRiO programs and how beneficial they could be for people like me. This epiphany led me to academic support services and faculty careers that reflect my passion to help others attain their collegiate dreams.