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Rising Above It: My Unexpected Road to College

This post is brought to you by the makers of Pine-Sol® Products. I have partnered with them to spread the word about  the ‘When Life Gets Tough, Women Rise Above It’ campaign and sweepstakes. To enter the sweepstakes, visit All opinions and stories are my own.

“Mom! Mom! I got accepted in to Alabama State University!” “Wait, what? Hold on girl.” My mom puts her friend on hold and asks me what I said. “Mom, I got into college!” “Oh. Girllllll! Ok.” She gets back on the phone, “Girl, Bernetta has gotten into college.” And she went back to cleaning. I actually don’t remember us having another conversation about it after that. I remember standing there excited for myself but also wondering why my mom didn’t appear as excited for me. I wondered why she didn’t get off the phone to discuss the where’s, the how’s, the when’s of a possible life changing experience. I wondered why, at the moment I was on top of the world but also felt alone there.


Let me take you back to before I received my acceptance letter. When I was growing up, I always knew two things: I wanted to go to college and I wanted to be on television (work in some form of media). I didn’t know the hurdles that might actually take until my junior/senior year of high school. I was mainly raised by my mother and my grandmother. I knew who my father was, but because he put his hands on my mother when I was 5 years old, I didn’t see him again until I was 15. Neither my parents nor grandparents went to college, so none of them could tell me how to get there.

My grandmother told me to go to the military! My mother never thought college was an option because she knew she couldn’t pay for it so she told me to attend beauty school. She thought I should do hair. I wanted to go to college, so I had to figure something out. I was one of the many kids who thought Hillman was a real college thanks to The Cobsy Show & a Different World (which is my favorite TV show). When I found out those schools didn’t exist, Clark & Spellman were my tops choices. The tuition of those schools & my SAT scores quickly put those schools out of reach. After a few discussions with my high school counselor about what I wanted to do, I applied to Alabama State University and was accepted.

Then I told my mom (remember the conversation above). Well after that conversation, I did everything on my own. I filled out and sent back my housing application. I went to the doctor and did my physical. I did get my mom to give me her financials so I could get financial aid. August came around and I started to pack my bags. My mom came in my room and asked me where I was going. I told her, “I am going to College!” She stood there with a confused look her on face. “How are you going to get there?” “You are going to take me!” And she did. We didn’t know the first thing about what to even take to college. My side of the room looked a “before makeover” shot, while my roommates looked like the “after”. My mother, her best friend and my two brothers took me to ASU from Evanston, IL and my new life began. Those years at Alabama State University were some of the best years of my life!

My mom will tell you to this day, that I took the initiative to make something happen that I really wanted to do for myself and she is proud of me too. If I didn’t decide to take control of my own future at 17, I don’t know where I would be today. That experience taught me that I am in full control of my life. If something is important enough, I can work hard enough to make it happen. Fast forward many years later. I am a college graduate of Alabama State University. I am working in media to a small degree, but I believe the right opportunity is still going to come and my BIGGER dream will soon be manifested!

What is your story? How have you risen above?

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  • Carissa
    November 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Go Bernetta!!! Coming from someone that used to work in Higher Education…I LOVE hearing stories of first generation college students!!! Continue to share this story kids need to hear that it can be done!!!

    • Bernetta
      November 26, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Thank you Carissa!! I will continue to share because I want everyone who wants to go to college to at least try to get there. It’s important and life changing!

  • Lamar
    November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Great article Bernetta. So many teens now expect everything to be done for them from top to bottom. Love how you took the initiative to make it happen on your own and didn’t wait to see what fell into your lap. Reading this was a great way to start the day and I’ll be making my daughter read it in a few minutes.

    • Bernetta
      November 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks Lamar! I appreciate that. I would it all over again knowing what I know now!! College may not be for all, but if you can attend it’s surely worth what you will gain from the experience!

  • Ann
    November 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I love this Bernetta! I went to college thirty miles from there. I know how much I matured during college and I am sure you felt that change as well. Like Lamar, I love the self starter spirit that so many kids are missing today. Your mom gave you a great gift by allowing you to find this path yourself.

    • Bernetta
      November 26, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks Ann! I agree with that!! It’s one of those teach a man to fish and he will eat for a life time kind of thing!!

  • Yolanda @Seeing It Their Way
    November 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Love the post! I have a similar story and make an effort to share it with all the young people in my life.

    • Bernetta
      November 26, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks girly!

  • Cam Bibs and Baubles
    November 26, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Love this post! What a great story of perseverance! Shoot, I’m proud of you.

    I was so with you on A Different World and the Cosby Show. Those shows changed my life.

  • Katherine G
    December 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    I totally enjoyed reading your story. I am totally proud of you.