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Stepping Stones: It's Never Too Late to Step Up and Step Out!

Stepping Stones: It's Never Too Late to Step Up and Step Out!

by Roslyn E. Graham

Thank you, Roslyn, for sharing your testimony! From welfare to speaking at your university graduation ceremony, what an amazing journey! May you inspire others, and by the grace of God, may they follow in your footsteps. – Sister Soldiers in Christ

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

In 2006, at the ripe age of 49-years-old, I earned my degree and thus started my teaching career. I had tried several times, at six different colleges or universities, but to no avail. I thought I was a failure at higher education, but my God is greater than any failure. I learned, through one of my professors at Old Dominion University (ODU), that my failures were merely stepping stones to get me where I am today.

My first attempt at college was in the fall of 1976 at the age of 18-years-old where I attended Radford College, now Radford University (RU). Mind you, I was not saved at the time. I thought I was big and bad and pretty much did whatever I wanted, except learning my studies. Plus, I had a boyfriend back home I missed.

Not only did I fail subjects and find myself on academic probation that first year; I also disappointed the person who believed in me the most, and continued to encourage me–my mother. I quit RU but decided to try Virginia Highlands Community College the following fall, which also only lasted a year. That’s when I decided college was not for me. Fortunately, that decision was short lived.

When the opportunity to attend the Job Corps as a non-resident opened in my hometown of Marion, Virginia, I went to work part time. I took some general classes there for three months and by the grace of God (I was still not saved), was able to attend Virginia State University (VSU) in Petersburg, Virginia through a Job Corps program. I attended from January 1980 through 1982 on a tuition-paid program.

During this time, I made the Dean’s list but was not happy living in Petersburg and returned to Marion. In October 1982, I became pregnant and my son, MacKenzie, was born in July 1983.

I devoted myself to raising my son the best I knew how. I’m a single mother and lived on welfare until MacKenzie was three-years-old. I did not like going without a job because my mom, who was a wonderful single mother of five, raised us to be workers. I found a job in a fast-food restaurant and decided to give Bluefield College’s accelerated program a try. Between working full time and trying to raise a child, I found myself overwhelmed. Yet another college failure.

When I was 28 years old I got baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. I had my first taste of Jesus. That only lasted about a year because I was not living a saved life. I continued to do many of the things I had always done for almost ten years. But God was not done with me. In May of 1998, in His kindness, goodness, and mercy, He reeled me back into His everlasting and loving arms.

While working as an instructional teaching assistant at Head Start, I had to take classes at Wytheville Community College (WCC). Head Start even paid for the classes. Finally, in May of 2001, I earned my associate’s degree.

It was not long after that when I decided to go through the Old Dominion University distance learning program and get my bachelor’s degree. I achieved this goal December 18, 2006. Not only did I get my degree then, but I sort of ended up being the graduation ceremony keynote speaker that evening!

I was only supposed to speak on my experience with distance learning but the keynote speaker’s flight was delayed so I was able to continue speaking. This gave me the opportunity to give God all the glory for His sustaining hand throughout my life and in pursuit of a degree.

My best friend told me I got a standing ovation but I told her it was God who got the standing ovation. That night, He gave me two-dozen roses and gifts through friends, former teachers, my principal, and students from the school where I was working. Although my mother could not attend my graduation, she was very proud of my accomplishment.

I went back to RU in 2009 and got my early childhood special education endorsement, and at the age of 49, I became a special education teacher. God has been so good to me. My sisters, be encouraged. He will do the same for you.

Be blessed in Jesus’ name.


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