|Acclaimed writer Langston Hughes once poetically penned “What happens to a dream deferred?” While Hughes was expressing frustrations amidst the civil rights turmoil that his generation faced, it is a question that more and more bright young minds are confronted with today in the form of economic struggles. With financial strains gripping her family, Amanda Marcum was one such crestfallen scholar with stifled aspirations.“We realized we couldn’t do it ourselves,” Karen Marcum recalled thinking four years ago as they faced the grim financial realities of her daughter’s academic future. “We needed help if we were going to make her dreams possible.”
Those dreams of a career in journalism evaporated quickly. Although Amanda earned prestigious scholaships at larger schools, the price tag overall was just too high to consider them as viable college choices. A lack of financial assistance eliminated local institutions, but the Corpus Christi residents found a glimmer of hope in Texas A&M University – Kingsville.
“It was the perfect solution,” Mrs. Marcum reflected. “You really get that big college feel – tradition tucked away on a beautiful campus filled with many activities and sporting events – as well as all of the tremendous advantages of a small school. Amanda's ability to live on a secure campus with all the comforts of home made it the perfect place to spend her college career.”
One of those advantages was what Mrs. Marcum described as a “big bang for your buck” tuition package. Even so, the Marcums, who were living off of their life savings with a fifth child on the way at the time, still found the perfect economic storm around them to be too consuming to pay for their daughter’s education. Determined to leave no stone unturned, Amanda made arrangements to visit the Texas A&M - Kingville campus with Dr. Trudy Anderson, then the Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Right away Dr. Anderson was fully invested in our situation,” Mrs. Marcum recalled. “Although Amanda had worked hard during her high school years and demonstrated an excellence in her education, we were disappointed with the lack of financial offerings from other schools. Dr. Trudy Anderson was a light in our darkness and was there for us in our time of need. She wanted my daughter to come to Texas A&M - Kingsville and she did everything she could to make that happen. It was amazing how one brief phone call could have such an impact on our daughter’s future.”
Through their conversation, Dr. Anderson discovered that Amanda was a good candidate for the Olga R. Paul Memorial Scholarship, an endowment named in memory of a much-beloved teacher in the Bishop school system. The application required the completion of some essays and a letter of reference. Amanda was able to secure that letter after a meeting with Dr. Manuel Flores, Associate Professor in Communications and Theatre Arts. Little did Amanda know at the time, but Dr. Flores would continue to make a significant impact on her life for the next four years as her mentor.
Other faculty and staff helped along the way, including a contact through her high school guidance counselor that lined up a job for Amanda at the campus call center before she had even set foot on campus. But the greatest investment came from a man Amanda had never even met or spoken to personally.
An engineering graduate when the University was formerly known as Texas A&I, Carl Paul had established the Olga R. Paul Scholarship Endowment in his mother’s name in 2003 because “education was very important to her.” “She enjoyed everything that school did for her,” Carl said. “She made a very modest salary as a teacher, but she loved it so much, she would have done it for free.”
It wasn’t until later in life that Carl came to a similar realization. “I had such a great experience at Texas A&I, and I saw what a great benefit it was to be there. The people and professors had a great impact on me,” Carl related.
As an entrepreneur who worked with his wife, Barbara, to turn a small custom golf club business that was run in their two-bedroom apartment into Golfsmith, a global multi-million dollar company, Carl saw the tremendous investment he was making in the lives of young people through the endowment.
“One thing that no one can take away from you is your education,” he said. “Just knowing that I’m helping a young person with his or her future is so rewarding.”
In December 2011, Amanda will graduate from Texas A&M University – Kingsville with a degree in Journalism and dual minors in business and French and an eye on furthering her education in graduate school or possibly law school. But she’ll take away much more than a degree. There were life-changing experiences like the summer internship through Georgetown University's Fund for American Studies located in Washington, D.C. , that allowed Amanda to live and study on Georgetown University's campus, as well as intern for a local political advertising business. Her hands-on education as the Editor-in-Chief of the school’s newspaper, the South Texan, is something that, she feels, would never have happened at a larger institution. Without Mr. Paul's generous gift, her French studies trip to Martinique this summer might never have been possible either.
“I’m so glad that I chose to go to Texas A&M – Kingsville,” Amanda said. “Had I gone to a bigger school, I would have just been a number, an unknown in a sea of students. I wouldn’t have had this kind of one-on-one interaction with professors. Here, my professors know me and care about my future. Here, I’ve been involved in the campus’ growth. I was on the campus beautification committee, and they actually took my suggestions and made changes. At a bigger school, I don’t think I would have the kind of opportunity to play such a prominent role with the school paper or have the same kind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I did here. It’s just such a quality experience here.”
Most importantly, thanks to the financial investments from a proud alumnus, the steadfast work of a compassionate counselor and the guidance of a dedicated mentor, Amanda’s dreams will not be deferred. Her aspirations for a career in broadcast or investigative journalism are more vibrant than ever. She and her mother are very mindful to make sure their appreciation is communicated.
Not long after Dr. Anderson played such a pivotal part in bringing Amanda to Texas A&M – Kingsville, she passed away after a battle with cancer. Soon after her passing, Mrs. Marcum contacted the school with an email expressing gratitude for all Dr. Anderson had done for Amanda. At the University’s annual Scholar-Donor dinner Mrs. Marcum personally thanked Trudy’s parents for all that their daughter had done. At the same event in 2010, Amanda gave flowers to Dr. Tom Fields, Trudy Anderson’s husband, who is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University.
In June 2011, Amanda and her mother worked with University representatives to arrange a visit to meet Carl and Barbara Paul in person to thank them and hand-deliver letters of appreciation.
“My husband and I are proud of Amanda and her achievements, and we are just so grateful to Mr. Paul for making that possible. Even though we had never met previously, we wanted him to know what a huge role he’s played in Amanda’s life all of these years,” Karen said.
“If Mr. Paul hadn’t established this scholarship, I wouldn’t have had all of these amazing opportunities. He gave me the chance to enjoy my college experience and not worry about the finances to make it happen. He’s really changed my life,” Amanda said.
As for Dr. Flores, well, watching his pupil find success in the real world will bring him greater satisfaction than any “thank you” could. That sentiment was relayed in a gift that Dr. Flores gave to Amanda, a book with an inscription that reads, “I know that one day you will make your mark.”
Thanks to the selflessness of donors, staff and faculty coming together at Texas A&M – Kingsville, it is possible for many young minds to make their mark. Not all dreams will be deferred to suffer the unfortunate fates of Hughes’ poetic ponderings: “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”…“Or fester like a sore and then run?”…“Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.”
Instead for bright Javelina minds, as Hughes surmises in his conclusion, their potential “explodes.”