I remember my dad packing sandwiches in a small, black bag that held a flashlight, gloves, and flares he used as an engineer on the trains that would take him from my hometown of Dalhart to Kansas on a regular basis. This was his job, and he took great pride in working for the railroad where he served for forty-eight years. The company provided a monetary per diem, but my dad was saving that money. As much as my dad liked the railroad, he would have retired much sooner and would have preferred a hot meal over sandwiches; but, my parents held tight to their dream. Both of my parents sacrificed a great deal to help their children earn college degrees that neither of them had the opportunity to earn. Each check my parents wrote for college tuition was a down payment on their dream of a better life for us. I can still hear my family screaming with excitement from the stands when my name was called at graduation. Receiving a diploma was a symbol of a family accomplishment we earned with sacrifice, and love, together. The Texas Tech University symbol is more than a decal on a helmet or shirt. It represents a dream of my parents, a better life for me and my family, and a slogan of the Red Raiders; from here, it’s possible. This symbol is a representation of my parents’ sacrifice, a promise kept over time and something we did as a family with equal parts grit, faith, and love.
Helping kids and families realize this same dream is something I take very seriously. When they understand and embrace the value of a college degree or professional license, it makes a difference for the person with the name on the diploma or certificate, it starts a ripple of hope, and it creates possibilities for the entire family. The Texas Tech symbol reminds me that, from here, it’s possible; and, my job as an educator is helping students map their future to a pathway leading to a better life.
Let’s be completely honest; I am a little obnoxious about it. For example, many of you know that I provide a dollar bill to the first student on a campus who can show the Texas Tech hand signal “guns up” without being prompted, tell me which university it represents, and do so without wearing a shirt representing another college. I do have a few disclaimers, though. No dollars are given at a traffic intersection, at a funeral, or to students who talk trash about the Red Raiders after receiving the gift. The kids love to play along, and they are getting very good at showing their Tech pride. I keep myself stocked with plenty of dollars to distribute; I love seeing the smiles on their faces.
I don’t only give dollars because I love my university; I also do it to begin a conversation about the importance of college. It’s working. Since 2013, we have increased the number of students attending a post-high school college or certification by 31%. That is a HUGE increase, and we are just getting started.
I’m proud to say that my love for Texas Tech is not in vain. My university now ranks 3rd among all colleges Wylie ISD students attend. Tech is only behind Collin College and UNT, both are within daily distance from our school district. BOOM! Can I get a GUNS UP?
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
This is “College Week” and a really great opportunity to talk with kids about college, their pathway to get there, and how we can help them. I welcome the challenge of someone stepping up their game from another university, or a fellow Texas Tech graduate helping me paint the district red. When we give our kids this gift of education, we give them a pathway of prosperity and hope.
Thanks, mom and dad, for helping me realize this family dream. Your investment of my education, much love, and amazing support helped me realize that from here, it’s possible. Thank you for the role you play in guiding the success of our students. Helping our kids map their future is the Wylie Way!