I was one of four children and while my parents did what they could to help me with college expenses, it was my goal to pay for college myself. I worked my way through undergraduate school working part-time in the administrative office of the Biology Department and supplemented that by becoming a Resident Assistant (“RA”) in the dormitories. Distinct advantage there! It did not take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. The University of Maryland Baltimore County (“UMBC”) was a relatively new university at that time having opened in 1966. I graduated from high school in 1969 and started there in the Fall of 1969. I was able to get a small book scholarship and grant as well as some student loans to handle the cost.
Working my way through undergraduate school
My job in the Biology Department gave me some extra money but it was the RA position that was the most fun. There were no dormitories on campus during my first semester. The first one opened in the Spring of 1972. UMBC was a little progressive in the arrangement of dormitory rooms suite style – that is, four students (two in each room) shared a bathroom between them. I loved my first semester in the dorm with a roommate but wanted my privacy so when I learned that there was this position called an RA who had not only a private room and private phone but also a private bathroom en suite, I had to be one. I was happy to study, work and perform my RA duties whenever called upon – weekends included.
During my junior year, I began working for the President’s office and through that position learned of an opening for a buyer at the University of Maryland at Baltimore which was the professional school campus of University of Maryland System that included the law school, dental school, school of social work, and at that time, the University of Maryland Hospital. One problem, this was a real job and it would mean leaving college early to start. I talked it over with my parents and my professors and decided that I would continue my university studies working towards my degree part-time while I worked.
Dance and theater – my first loves
I had majored in dance and theater and dance with a minor in French – studies that were not conducive to having a business wardrobe but rather a closet full of tights, sweats and other dance wear. I learned then what many graduates and people just entering the workforce are still learning to this day, that is, to get ahead you have to not only dress for the position that you have but also the position that you wanted. If I was going to be in the “business” world, I had to look like I belonged in the business world. Having no money to run out and buy a new wardrobe, I turned to a skill I learned in high school – sewing. With patterns and fabric in hand, I made myself several skirts, pants and even suits to wear to work. Were they perfect? No but no one looked that closely. Another source, my grandmother Edna. She was actually my father’s stepmother but I loved her dearly as she was the only grandmother that I knew. Edna would give me her hand-me-downs. We were close in size and she gave me suits, dresses, blouses, whatever she had that she no longer wore (or I suspect anything she just wanted to pass my way). In many ways, she helped form my fashion sense. She was very quiet spoken and I knew she loved me dearly. I was always grateful to her.
Life after my degree
I realized that as much as I liked the world of theater and dance, I was not going to be a professional dancer. I completed by degree in theater and dance but then completed a subsequent degree in Business Administration to help me be better prepared to continue in the field of business. Dance remained a part of my life and is still very important to me. I was able to teach dance for years at a studio in Baltimore that was owned by a dear friend of mine. Recently I went to see Misty Copeland dance the lead in Romeo and Juliet at the Met and wept at how stunning she was. Dance will always hold a place in my heart. I recently started taking ballet lessons again as a way to stay in shape. As a young person, you should never be too proud or afraid to approach someone who you know or even if you do not know them well, approach them anyway. We should always be ready to advise and help other people along the way giving advice based on our experiences to help guide those following in our footsteps as they start on their careers. You do not have to be rich to be successful or to start a new job. We can help each other get there and be that bridge that helps them make a difference in their lives.