October 12, 2018

Century College student Valora Brown has always been a leader.

Since childhood, when Brown cared for her siblings in a large household, Brown has had the desire to help others. She strives to work with children and get to the roots of their problems at an early age.

Now, she is majoring in Psychology at Century College, and is planning to get her doctorate. She is well on her way as a member of Phi Theta Kappa with a 3.8 GPA.

But Brown’s outlook was not always so rosy. It wasn’t long ago that Brown was homeless and on academic suspension.

She was on the verge of giving up – but with help from Century College and friends, Brown drew from the resilience she’d developed through a childhood of poverty, and the willpower she always had as a natural leader.

A Life of Adversity

Growing up a poor household created many challenges for Brown, including food shortages and three instances of homelessness. But she doesn’t wish her childhood was different.

“I don’t regret how my childhood was, because I may not even be the same person I am today if I didn’t go through that,” said Brown. “I was able to learn what it was like to struggle, how to get things for myself, how to earn things and appreciate things. All of my values stem from my childhood.”

Though Brown acknowledges the difficulties of her childhood could have led her to dark places, she made a conscious decision to make life better for herself. That’s what brought her to Century College.

Things weren’t easy for Brown, though. She was homeless, and worked full-time. She struggled academically, became very discouraged, and eventually stopped attending classes altogether. She was soon placed on academic suspension.

“It’s hard to see what you’ve worked for your whole life falling apart,” said Brown.

Brown, who persevered through so much, was on the verge of giving up.

Turning it Around

When Brown was at her lowest, she was inspired by the words of her best friend, who she met on her first day at Century College. When Brown stopped going to classes, her friend stepped in.

“My friend said ‘I’ll support you and be there for you no matter what decision you make, but I know a college degree is want you want, and I think you should keep fighting,’” said Brown.

Her academic advisor, Kelly Ponto Watrin, was also key to her turning things around.

“She let me know that, though I was getting suspended, I shouldn’t let it stop me, that I could improve as long as I put in the work,” said Brown.

It didn’t happen overnight, of course. She had to fight self-doubt by standing in front of a mirror and repeatedly telling herself she could do it. It took a year and a half for Brown to repair her GPA from that difficult semester, but as she continued to work, A’s starting popping up on her report card.

Watrin was there with her every step of the way.

“She’s always had input, and I’ve always been able to go to her,” said Brown. “We’ve grown from a counselor-student relationship into friends. I’m very thankful for her.”

Growing at Century College

Now that Brown has her academic life on track, Brown and Watrin are looking toward her future goals

“She didn’t just stop at Century College,” said Brown. “She helped me get into Metropolitan State University and figure out my route into the future. It took five years, but together we figured out what I want to do with my life and how to get there. She’s been amazing.”

The future is certainly bright for Brown as she continues to forge her path toward a doctorate degree and financial stability for the first time in her life. She credits Century College for setting her up for success.

“Century College has great teachers and resources,” said Brown. “Once I came forward and let them know I needed help, many doors opened for me here.”

Brown has grown from her ordeal, flipping her negative thought processes into positivity and inner strength. Though Brown was always a leader for others, she has now managed to take the lead in her own life.

“I have a lot more confidence in myself,” said Brown. “I know I can conquer anything as long as I stay committed and work hard for it. When I have hardships, I look at them positively to figure out I can fix my situation, get over it, and get better.”