You just received your college acceptance letter and you are thrilled as you celebrate with family and friends. You’re ready to undergo a whirlwind of orientations, explore the beautiful campus and ride that matriculation wave toward your degree. When you started you were pumped! “Bring it on” you said. You bought the paraphernalia, pens, book bags with the school logo. But, you never saw this coming - after a few semesters the novelty of this new venture began to wear off. What do you do when the courses become more-challenging? What do you do when you finally realize that instructors come from a pool of the good, the bad, and the ugly? What happens when your social life takes a dive, or even pregnancy occurs? What do you do when you just don’t feel like it anymore? Or a loved-one becomes terminally ill? When it has gotten hard and you are no longer motivated and just want to get a job and move on with life; what do you do? At this point it’s easy to make poor decisions out of frustration. But if you combine the academic and biblical principles that I speak about in this book, you can become a better student and person overall.
As a longtime advisor to college students, I offer advice on how to succeed during your most challenging times in college and life itself. This book presents information on the mental toughness, the physical stamina, the spiritual strength and the healthy relationships that will make your college journey successful.
You can learn why it is alright to take risks; to let some people go, and to fight injustice and discrimination on campus. You will discover what qualifies a mentor and why you need one.
As you go through college, never live by the opinions of others. Your future is in your own hands, and the life-changing biblical and academic principles that they don’t teach you in freshman seminar—but that you can learn here—are all you need to Empower Thyself!
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Read an Excerpt
Life-Changing Biblical and Academic Principles They Don't Teach You in Freshman Seminar
By Jeffrey Sams
iUniverseCopyright © 2016 Jeffrey Sams, MEd.
All rights reserved.
MY CONVERSATION WITH SHAKIRA
"You're not a bad student," I said to Shakira, "You just have not identified your passion. What is your passion? What is your dream? Because when your passion is recognized it will put you in hot pursuit of your dream. What is it that you want out of life?"
"I want to be successful; I want to have nice things like anyone else" she responded.
"Then let me pose another question, how badly do you want it? I asked. "Because you have to keep your eyes on what your dreams and move intelligently toward them." Shakira looked up at me as if a light turned on in her head, and I continued.
"Young people of this generation have not had to work hard for anything. Will you all even work hard for yourselves? "
'O Lord, here we go" she mumbled.
"I know you don't want to hear this. I have only been in higher education for 24 years. And I know it is impossible for me, as far as you are concerned, to know what I am talking about. But please, hear me out. As I was saying, parents try to get their children whatever they want and it has spoiled them into thinking that the world is going to do the same thing. So, when they attend college and/or get out on their own, they experience a rude awakening. They find that success does not fall from the sky; good grades do not jump into the teacher's book under their names, and no one hands them a paycheck based on how they look unless they are models. Shakira, you have to start with a plan; line up your objectives and work toward your goals. You have to network, volunteer, and remember that every internship is not a paid one. Sometimes you are paid in experience only.
"When we were growing up (my generation) we did not have the world at our fingertips. We had a rotary phone that we had to sit down beside in order to use it. In fact, my parents despised technology so much that I was a freshman in college before they even allowed a phone in the house. I got it installed with my father's permission and I paid the bill. We could not walk around the house and talk on the phone because there was no such thing as a cordless phone. And Lord knows we never even thought about a computer; we hardly knew what that was. You guys e-mail, text, and IM (Instant message) from miles away. All we had were stamps and envelopes; it's called snail mail now; by the time a resume would get to an employer somebody else could have gotten the job. You all can hit a button and send 10 resumes to 10 different companies at one time. All this fancy technology we have today is good if it is used with discipline."
"We had big, chunks of television," I continued "with about 4 or 5 channels and we were the remote controls. When the knobs broke we kept a set of pliers nearby. So we did not have all the distractions that you guys have today. I know technology makes life easier, but it can also make it very challenging; you have to set guidelines and schedules for social media just like anything else."
Shakira crossed her legs and began to stare at me with a why are you telling me all this kind of look. But I pressed on further. "You have to be in control of your space and not let technological advances dictate to you when and how long you use them – you are in control! If you mess up with your education while it is free and available, tell me what your alternative will be? If you struggle while it is easy, what will you do when things get difficult? Don't let everything consume you; stay focused! In my day, we knew how to study. We knew what walking to the library was about. We knew how to get our hands dirty and filled with paper cuts while we flipped the pages of those encyclopedias. Now, you guys bring the library and all its volumes right to your lap, and you are spoiled to thinking that everything good for you is going to drop in your lap the same way – not so!" Shakira became really quiet. I noticed that her eyes begin to tear up.
"Shakira, I want to stir up your mind so that you can change the way that you are thinking. If your mind does not change, neither will your behavior. Now go back to your instructors; find out where you stand in each course and see if you can make up the work that you lost. Determine in your mind that from this day forward excellence is going to be a life-long prerequisite – across the board! And if you need help in anything, I am here for you. When you go home and before you sleep tonight, pray and ask God to help you become a better student and person overall. Ask Him to help you to be temperate in all things, and watch how your life begins to change."
"There are study skills workshops, note-taking and time management resources of which you can take advantage. Make certain that you take some time to invest in yourself! Your education is a partnership with you and the institution – you have to do your part!"
To my surprise, Shakira arose and gave me a big hug and said: "Thank you." I felt that she was now determined to go forward and to put things in motion that would lead to her success. Sometimes students just want to know that we care.
I realize that Shakira is like a lot of other students who have been spoiled by the success of their parents and the availability of technology. As educators and parents, it is our responsibility to help our student-children not be consumed and out of control with the rapidly advancing and changing world around them, but to keep them focused on their dreams with the assistance of technology.
If we do not help them and steer them properly, our students can be up till the wee hours of the morning replacing study time with social media and other electronic gadgetry. In the end, we will have a society of people who know how to navigate technology but knows very little about establishing, maintaining and working a career to fulfillment through education. Even if they decide on occasion to change careers, they will at least have the foundational knowledge to do so. We must empower our young people to see today's world differently, and to take advantage of everything that it has to offer.CHAPTER 2
The beginning of a personal journey
I embarked upon my college journey years ago. I had to overcome a lot of emotional, family, and financial issues to get there. The neighborhood was not the best either. Fights often broke out; people were seriously injured on a regular basis, and there was constant bullying. At one point in my high school years, I thought that I would never get beyond the troubles that I lived with daily. We seemed to be constantly pushed into a confrontation by surrounding families and there was also conflict within our own family. I did not think that I could escape the verbal abuse and whippings from my father. It seemed as if I lived under the pressures and strife from inside, and my peers pressing me outside to get involved in the wrong things.
Those two things weighed heavily upon me. Many of my friends were having sex, and I was teased because they knew I had never been with a young lady. Nevertheless, through all of the pain and pressure, I kept saying to myself that there had to be more to life than what I was seeing every day.
In the process of time, I made it to my senior year in high school and began to look at going college. Meanwhile, many of my peers were either being carted off to a detention center, were getting high, or had dropped out of school. I remember seeing one of them in a thrift store begging for money. He looked as if he was a substance abuser. Others had given up and were street sweepers and still others had died violent deaths. On the other hand, some of us were doing really well in pursuing our dreams. I knew I had to press on. There was always something inside me telling me to keep going. I knew there was more that life had to offer, and I knew an education would get me there. I could have been overtaken by my environment, and let my hopes and dreams crumble to the streets, but I refused to do so. I found that I loved learning and I loved people.
GOING TO COLLEGE
I heard about Coppin State College. So one day I walked about thirty-five blocks to get there. I had no bus fare but I did have a dream. Folks at the college began reaching out to help me, offering advice and finances. Once I enrolled, I began meeting other students that were going places and doing things. I placed myself in an ambitious, thriving and motivated learning environment. I got involved with the college choir. We traveled; we won awards singing all over the city and sometimes out of state. I became a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. I was moving forward and loving it! I graduated from undergrad with a B.S. degree in English and a Master's of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling. I can still hear my very first pastor say "Master in something!" He constantly drilled it into the minds of the youths in the church, and I knew I had to.
I did not realize at the time that I was being empowered and simultaneously empowering myself. I had to pause and take a serious look at surrounding conditions and make a conscious effort to be a part of something better. I had to see myself at a better place and wanting more than what was being offered. I, therefore, talked to myself and encouraged myself. With God's help, I am where I am today.
At this point in my life, I am very humbled by God's grace. As I leave empowerment up to me by the direction of the Spirit of God, I am going to achieve more and live this life to the fullest. I can empower myself if no one else is there to give me what I need. I simply must have a determination, a dream, a relentless pursuit, and God on my side.
There is so much that we hear about empowering people to do or to become, but do we really hear enough about their being continually empowered? A retreat, a workshop, and all the hype are good, but on average they usually last about 60 minutes after the presentation is concluded. That is why self- empowerment is much more important. If I depend on others to empower me, what happens when they are not around? Or when we have differences and they hold back in their ability to empower me? Providing instruction alone of how to achieve is good, but how do we make students/ people feel good enough about themselves and what they believe in so that empowerment is an on-going process in their lives?
How do we get students to come to the realization that empowerment begins as a seed inside an individual? If it is watered and cared for and nurtured, it will flourish, but if neglected it will die. How do we get students to believe in what they expect or to get them to see that they can accomplish what they might find hard to believe? How do they know that they can and should desire what is best for them? How can we get a student to believe that he can be a great student when his past matriculation as a student tells him that he is average and mediocre? Empowerment works when people understand that they can have and achieve more than and as much as the next person. It starts with helping a person believe that he has the capacity to accomplish what he sets in his mind. It is unlocking faith that lies within a person, and nurturing it to the point that it does not need much help in development. Empowerment for an individual does not work until he is made to understand that God designed him uniquely, and what He ordained him to do in life can be done by no other the way that he would do it. This concept comes under the heading of designer's original! He must be made to understand that there is something inside him, put there by God, which will take him to the top spiritually and naturally.
When students discover what that "something" is, little external empowerment is needed! Empowerment is the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Empowerment is not a one-shot deal. It involves empowering people until they learn to empower themselves — which is true empowerment! In the appearance of empowerment, an individual looks like he has caught on and believes that he can conquer anything while the empowerer is present. But what happens when the empowerer has moved on and the empoweree faces other challenges?
Jesus taught the disciples to access the power of God through His name. They were very good at it when Jesus was with them. But on one occasion when He was not there, the disciples could not do what they had seen Jesus do. In Matthew chapter 17:20 when they asked why, Jesus responded, "Because of your unbelief." The power to do it was there, but they did not understand that they were empowered to do it by simply using the authority of the name, and believing in the power that came with it.
Your unbelief locks up your self-empowerment. Believe from within and unlock self-empowerment under God's power. I am a preacher – did you think I would say anything different? Let's look at it again from another angle; teaching a man to fish is just as important as teaching him why he ought to fish. When he understands why he ought to fish he will fish to save himself and those in his care, even when conditions are unfavorable in his life. He is now empowered although the lesson is over and the teacher is gone. Sure, he could fish and eat for life as the proverb states, but he could also rob other fishermen for his life sustenance. His primary goal is to eat! He must be empowered to fish well and to make an honest living. He must be taught to ignore negative feelings and conditions and continue in his pursuit of success without harming others.
One of the key principles of empowerment is the word enhance-"enhancing the capacity." Enhance means to intensify or increase in quality, value, power, etc; improve; augment. One thing that I truly know about empowerment is that you cannot increase anything in anyone unless they mutually agree with what you are proposing to do. As we look at students, and especially those in the inner city, this enhancement is more about "how." How can we do this? How can we make students want to increase in quality and desire enhancement of their lives? Well, we need to show them what they perhaps had not seen while growing up: Black history? Not exclusively. But the history of any color of peoples coming up through hard times, persevering and being self and externally-empowered to become great contributors to society.
When my brother took me to Coppin State's campus as a youngster, I knew I had to attend. It was the 80's; I saw the beautiful campus, and very soon after, I was a student. I grew up in the hood but it had a different meaning at that time. It was plagued with liquor stores, lottery machines, drunks, fighting neighbors and family feuds (much like today), etc., but I was blessed to see Coppin when I did. It made me know that there was something better than what I lived every day growing up; I could believe! And self-empowerment could begin. Quality and self-enhancement were inevitable.CHAPTER 3
SELF-EMPOWERMENT NOT SELF RELIANCE
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5–6
We live in an age that teaches us to be armies of one, to trust and rely upon no one except ourselves, and to believe that we have the power to chart our own destinies. Some abide by a doctrine of self-centeredness and believe that they are ultimately in control, having to answer to no one about their personal decisions. Allow me to pose a few questions to you. Have you ever trusted yourself to give up a habit, to develop one, or to remember not to forget something? Have you ever told a friend that you would be there to help him and did not show up, for circumstances perhaps beyond your control? These questions present a small portion of the frailty of humanity. Surely you can develop good habits and break old, undesirable ones, but the flesh is still very unreliable – yes, even yours ... For the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak" Matthew 26:41.
The aforementioned examples remind us that we cannot be trusted all the time although it may be in our hearts to be trustworthy. There are times that we are let down and there are times in which we let others down. When I talk about self-empowerment, I mean positioning and equipping oneself with the proper tools and attitude to accomplish, but not independent of God. I understand that some might believe that everything they accomplish can be attributed to their hard work, discipline and ability to stay away from things that counter their plans. While all of that may be true, it only takes a physiological mishap in one's brain functionality, or some other devastating physical impairment to change one's life forever. Then what will he rely on?
It is interesting how one can claim to have such control over his life, but had no control over how he arrived in the earth. The simple facts that we were born and had nothing to do with it show how little control we have over our existence apart from God. Tell me who has numbered your days? If we are in such control of our lives, perhaps we know when the air will be shut off from our lungs? I say all of the above to make a point- from the G.E.D. to the geniuses of the world; it is God's grace that gives us the ability to accomplish and to achieve. Our ability to network, connect, and use other resources are only part of it.
Excerpted from Empower Thyself! by Jeffrey Sams. Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Sams, MEd.. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
SECTION - 1 EMPOWERMENT INSIGHTS,
Chapter 1 Empower Thyself My conversation with Shakira, 1,
Chapter 2 A personal journey On-going empowerment, 4,
Chapter 3 Self-Empowerment Not self reliance, 9,
Chapter 4 Academic Self-Empowerment, 12,
Chapter 5 Evaluate your circle of friends, 15,
Chapter 6 You will always be a student, so keep learning, 17,
Chapter 7 Less negative attitude, 19,
Chapter 8 Go beyond, 21,
Chapter 9 Set a standard for excellence, 24,
Chapter 10 Keep Discovering, 28,
Chapter 11 Get A Mentor, 30,
Chapter 12 Take Risks, 33,
Chapter 13 Mind your own business, 37,
SECTION - 2 THE STUDENT AND ...,
Chapter 14 The student and people, places, & things, 43,
Chapter 15 Mother and son things, 48,
Chapter 16 Doors, windows, & mirrors,, 50,
Chapter 17 The student & obstacles, 59,
Chapter 18 The student and intimate relationships, 62,
Chapter 19 The student and resilience, 68,
Chapter 20 The student and resistance, 71,
Chapter 21 The student and the body, 74,
Chapter 22 The student and the mind, 79,
Chapter 23 The student & the spirit of God, 82,
Chapter 24 The student and thanksgiving, 88,
Chapter 25 The student & the plan, 98,
Chapter 26 The student and the process, 101,
Chapter 27 The student & perseverence, 107,
Chapter 28 The student and endurance, 115,
Chapter 29 The student and the race to finish, 119,
Chapter 30 The student and preparation, 122,
SECTION - 3 SUCCESS PRINCIPLES,
Chapter 31 Student success is in your hands, 129,
Chapter 32 BYOP, 132,
Chapter 33 Academics and smart living, 135,
Chapter 34 Give 7 empower someone, 139,
Chapter 35 Getting pass your past, 142,
Chapter 36 Be Yourself, 145,
Chapter 37 Dont be a hypocrite, 150,
Chapter 38 What Do You See Now?, 153,
Chapter 39 10 Commandments (+3), 156,
Chapter 40 Elevate your mind, 158,
Chapter 41 Say, move, make, 160,
Chapter 42 Fight for what is right, 164,
Chapter 43 Who will you believe?, 168,
SECTION - 4 STOP,
Chapter 44 Stop, 175,
Chapter 45 The tongue Part I, 193,
The Tongue Part II, 196,
Chapter 46 Poking fun, 199,
Chapter 47 Instruct to empower, 209,
SECTION - 5 A MIXED BAG OF COLLEGE AFFAIRS,
Chapter 48 My two cents on retention, 217,
Chapter 49 Best practices, 230,
Chapter 50 How do i retain thee?, 235,
Chapter 51 Don't leave us, 239,
SECTION - 6 DARE TO DREAM,
Chapter 52 Dream, 247,
Chapter 53 Back burner dreams, 254,
SECTION - 7 SOME INNER CITY TEACHING CHALLENGES,
Chapter 54 Educational & teacher challenges, 263,
SECTION - 8 A BIT OF MY PHILOSOPHY ON EDUCATION,
Chapter 55 A new way to empower, 277,
Chapter 56 Sams' hierarchy of educational needs, 281,
Chapter 57 Letter to a V.P, 288,
Chapter 58 A Heart for the soul of my students, 292,