From First Generation College Attender to Becoming Dr. A

From First Generation College Attender to Becoming Dr. A

Setting Career Goals and Reaching them through Education

Summer Educational Programs can help you Attain your Academic and Career Goals

Exploring career options through summer pre-college programsI was asked to speak at a high school where most of the students would be the first in their family to graduate and attend a university. I openly shared how I overcame challenges in my life and encouraged these students to seek educational experiences, especially during the summer, to become more confident and prepared for their post secondary options.

My journey has been about perseverance and navigating the educational system as a first generation college student. I was fortunate to attend summer sports programs as a teenager and met peers with similar ideals and mentors who helped give me the fortitude to further my education. My experiences have helped motivate students to achieve their own personal and academic goals and I hope my pathway gives you inspiration.


A Memorable Summer Pre-College Experience on a University Campus

Summer sports camps for high school studentsMy first summer educational experience took place on a college campus.  I attended a residential basketball camp in New York that literally gave me a real look at what my life would be like as a college student (explore New York summer programs).  Since my parents had not gone to college, I did not have the stories or the guidance to understand what life would be like after high school.  I also graduated from a rural school district where only 4 out of 90 of us went on to a four-year school.  My dad moved me away from an urban setting when I was in ninth grade because he feared that I was either going to be in a gang or strive to be a linebacker for the NY Giants.  Since I was only 5’ 7” tall and weighed 130 pounds, the latter was a pipe dream, however, in my mind, I carried myself like I was 6’ 10” and 350 pounds on a good day! 

I also used my gigantic perception to reek havoc on the basketball court.  At that time, we still used the men’s regulation ball and unfortunately could not be recruited by a college coach the same way that boys were recruited.  Everything was done by word of mouth or through phone conversations.  Luckily, the boys’ basketball coach helped me to try and be recognized for my unique abilities and contacted competitive universities to tell them to offer me an athletic scholarship.  I did not understand how important standardized tests were in this process and did not score high enough to receive a full scholarship. Interesting enough, now you can enter some colleges without these test scores – Fair Test.

College campus for a summer pre-college programIronically, on my way to visit a state university, my dad and I saw a sign for a private school that I remembered a girl that I met at a summer basketball camp was attending and we decided to take a ride around the campus.  Yep, fate was on my side, because lo and behold she walked out of a campus building right as we pulled up and the rest was history. I met the basketball coach, retook my standardized tests, and became an addition to the campus as a first generation college attender.  I was a long way from those old school playground courts!!


From Dr. J to Dr. A

Dr. J basketball player and summer programsIt was at this university that my basketball coach started to call me Dr. A.  This was significant at the time because of the infamous Dr. J. (Julius Irving) who started the one letter trend for athletes.  I really liked the sound of Dr. A and was realistic that my real height and weight would not warrant an NBA career, so I decided to search for other options. Yes, I went after majors that I thought would help me to be called Dr. A.  My first stop was an obvious one.

I thought that I would become a medical doctor. Well, biology was considered a weed out course for pre-med students on our campus and wow did it ever weed me out. I was a math major and just was more interested in numbers than dissecting frogs.  This then prompted me to explore psychology because I thought my patients could call me Dr. A.  Unfortunately, child psychology was just not interesting for me – I just did not like working with young children. I felt defeated. Imagine if someone had introduced me to summer educational programs in the field of medicine how I could have saved myself a lot of time and energy to avoid that career path. In the end, I graduated as a math major, went on to teach math to teenagers, since I liked them a lot more than toddlers – at least that child psychology class helped me with this important decision. I also coached college basketball and soccer, yet still pondered about how I could be called Dr. A.

When I was 30-years old and working at a university in the minority affairs office, the provost asked to meet with me to discuss potential career options.  He said that even though I had a master’s degree I just was not going to be able to tap into my career potential and would reach a point that I could not climb up a professional ladder unless I had a doctoral degree. 

Letter a being sewnAll of a sudden it hit me, if I received a Ph.D. then I could really be called Dr. A!!!  Yes, a star was born.  I packed up all of my belongings and moved my five-year old son to Ohio to attend The Ohio State University and have been called Dr. A ever since. “A” career decision is more than just a title, it’s part of the game!!


Finding your Career Path

Pre-college program on a college campusWhat will be your story be?  How will you find your career path?  I think with so many summer educational programs available to you right now that your journey will be a lot more productive than mine and in your twenties you will soar to great heights with or without a basketball!!

The following pages include summer programs that might peek your interest and help you to find your Dr. A-Z options.  Always remember that the only person in your way is you so take advantage of the pick I have set for you and slam dunk your way to an exciting career.

Summer Pre-College Programs for High School Students

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Donna Andrews

Donna has worked in the field of education in a variety of positions. She has been a high school teacher, college academic skills coordinator, and university professor. She has helped students achieve success in summer STEM programs and sports programs. She has also coordinator and taught in pre-college programs for high school students.

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