Education plays an extremely important role in our everyday lives. Education helps the economic growth of a country, it provides us with ethical values, but most importantly it helps an individual gain happiness through building a stable, well-balanced self-sufficient life. The reality is that for some individuals, gaining higher education is not so easy. Education is powerful but can be a challenge to attain for low-income students and first-generation students.
Earlee Corbin is one of those first-generation students whose path to success has been a challenging one. Earlee is a junior at Metropolitan College who is working toward a degree in Business Administration in addition to working a full-time job and also being a husband and a father. Earlee is a self-proclaimed country boy who was born and raised in a small town in Maryland. This is Earlee’s second time attending college. He first attended college straight out of high school but decided to drop out in order to care for his father who was ill.
“I told my father in 2008 before he passed away that I would finish college but it had to be the right time,” says Earlee. When the time was right Earlee fulfilled that promise. He also found Metropolitan College which provided him with the support needed to gain his higher education. Earlee earned the chance to represent the institution at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, WA.
Earlee, along with three other students from Johnson C. Smith University, were invited to visit the Gates foundation and share their stories with members of the organization. Earlee says, “I did not go just to represent myself, I was there to represent Metropolitan College at JCSU and to give them our story as adult learners, about the challenges that we face obtaining our degree and furthering our careers.” Earlee estimates that he told his story four or five times during his three day visit to the Gates Foundation.
“There were a lot of people there that did not know what HBCU’s were and did not know about the unfortunate struggles that some individuals face trying to go to college,” says Earlee. During his visit Earlee was prepped before each session about how each process would take place. After a dinner on his second day there, Earlee learned that he would have an opportunity to meet with Bill Gates. Earlee says that the meeting was to share with Mr. Gates the same story he was sharing with everyone else. He adds, “During the conversation with Mr. Gates we could not give him a short answer or the politically correct answer because he would fire back at you, and ask you to explain in further detail.” Earlee says that it was humbling to see that Mr. Gates really does care about the work at his foundation.
The purpose of the visit was to shed some light on the unfortunate circumstances that many low-income students face. The goal of the Gates Foundation is to provide Universities like JCSU with the resources needed to help students gain a higher education. The organization helps Universities provide technical, and financial support, and also counseling.
Corbin says that it was an eye opening experience for members of the Gates foundation and a humbling experience for himself. “To know that I am helping others, even more so than helping myself feels good. It is my journey but if I can help others get to the point I’m at, I feel like I did my job.”