Contrary to popular belief, college is really not about you or your degree or that six-figure salary you hope to one day acquire.

It’s bigger than that.

College is about how much knowledge you can attain in the time given, and how much of that knowledge you can share with the masses.

About a year ago, while working in West Baltimore, I tutored the most brilliant 5-year-old boy I have ever met.

I’m usually reluctant to work with kids. I don’t really have the patience for their elementary school antics. But Diontaye was different. This little boy knew that he was smart, and he only wanted to get smarter.

One day, his older brother who attended the same school, was suspended for fighting. This incident prompted a very serious conversation between Diontaye and I.

I said, “Fighting is not cool. Getting suspended is unacceptable. If I ever hear that you are being mean or disrespectful to other students I’m going to be very disappointed. Being polite, being smart, saying please and thank you is always cool. Always! Don’t let anybody tell you anything different.”

He replied, in his most confident “big boy” voice, “Okay, Ms. Michelle. You know, I’m nice. I’mma be good.”

While most of us remember few things from kindergarten, I hope that Diontaye never forgets that conversation.

There will come a time when this little boy will have to choose what type of man he’s going to be. Someone will tell him that ignorance is cooler than brilliance, that his proximity to violence defines his masculinity, that college is for suckers and that mediocrity is his lot.

I didn’t get a degree just so I could have a big house on the hill. My education gives me the audacity to tell a black boy from the wrong side of Baltimore that he can do and be anything … and truly believe it.

If Diontaye were older, I would’ve told him that knowledge is revolutionary, and that higher education is the most gangsta endeavor he could ever undertake. I would’ve told him that a black man equipped with ideas and proficient use of the English language is more powerful than army of strong-armed men. I would’ve told him that his smile will break hearts, and that his brain could save lives.

My education is much bigger than me, and so is yours. If I succeed and a community of Diontayes fail, then I’m a failure by association.

As educated people, we are obligated by morality to help someone else get one step closer to realizing their dreams. Dreams they might not otherwise pursue without a substantive education.

College is a community commitment. Invest yourself and your knowledge in your community. Plant seeds of excellence. Water them them with your time and your service so that the fruit can feed the next generation.

Until next time,

Give H.O.P.E. Live H.O.P.E.

Michelle Janaye
Assistant Director
The H.O.P.E. Scholarship