By TeCora Estes
When Stephanie J. Tucker, a 24-year-old female freshman at Saint Augustine’s College, decided to return to school after five challenging years away from college, she had no idea how she was going make it through school.
Although she was happy to be returning to college in the fall of 2010, it wasn’t always easy for her to keep the mind frame of school being a benefit to her life. She was going from a lack of purpose, getting into serious trouble and putting off major grief to that of a typical college student.
Stephanie spent most of her early high school time in Richmond, Va. doing extracurricular activities such as band, choir and basketball, but she was not academically successful. Instead, she stressed the other things because “I always had to stay in the spotlight so that I can feel accepted,” she said.
Unfortunately during her high adolescence, Stephanie faced two emotional tragedies: the death of her mother from cancer when she was just 13 and the murder of her sister during her senior year of high school.
Stephanie says that she never actually dealt with the death of her mother. And when her sister was killed, she had a hard time grasping the fact that both of them were in fact deceased. She says, “I was in denial for a long time.”
Before the death of her sister, Stephanie says that her plans when she graduated were to attend a four-year HBCU and graduate with a degree in Music Education.
Her high school band directors Thurman D. and Clytha W. Hollins were her inspiration to attend college and even to step out of her comfort zone by joining a band playing the clarinet. He even introduced her to his alma mater, Norfolk State University (NSU).
Stephanie did in fact attend school, but the outcome was nowhere near her plans. She attended NSU for only one semester, then a community college and dropped out three weeks later. She went to nursing school and quit after a year and then to a technical school, quitting after three days.
“My body was there but my mind wasn’t,” she said. She said she had the attitude that since she was grown she didn’t have to conform to rules and what other people wanted.
For awhile she decided not to go back to school at all. And that resulted in her doing drugs, getting arrested, getting fired from over 20 jobs, being broke and homeless, and not having any support at all.
After five long years of struggles, Stephanie decided to return to school in the fall of 2010.
“It took me five years to realize that I was fed up,” she said.
While in the process of returning to school, she began dealing with her losses and eventually found other things that would challenge but also complement her growth.
It didn’t happen immediately though. When she first came back to college she thought it would just be a vacation away from home, and that she wouldn’t have to do any work. Eventually challenging herself, she is now involved in the Marching, Jazz, and Pep band, Choir, and she is planning to start an organization on campus in the near future. Her high school band director Mr. Hollins is now on the music faculty at Saint Augustine’s, and she’s back as a part of his bands.
She says that if she had not come back to school, she would probably still be living the same destructive cycle she did before--living broke, moving from house to house, or depending on friends and family. Instead she now plans to graduate in 2014.
When asked what advice would she give to someone who maybe be thinking about giving up she says; “Everyone’s situation is different. In serious cases like mine, the best thing to do would be to leave school and get your mind together, but in minor cases, just do what’s best for you.”