Friday, January 15, 2016

Stories of Giving from Thierry Brusselle "How I Met Kevin Smith"

Last summer, my wife and I were buying books for our two boys at Barnes and Nobles. There, a young man approached me and asked me if I taught I Chaffey College. After answering yes, he told me that he had been looking forward to meeting me to discuss a major in Business. As we started talking, I noticed that he was holding several books for purchase. After asking him about them, he showed me that he was buying a book on improving one’s grammar, one about career choices, and a thesaurus. Then he shared his story with me. He was born in Compton, California to a drug-addicted single mother. After she lost custody of her son, his grand-mother legally adopted him. This turned out to be the highlight of his life. She instilled hard work, education, and responsibility in Kevin. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with cancer. Young Kevin found himself going to school, working to support his grandmother, paying for her medication, and slowly watching her die. Kevin showed me a small photograph of his grandmother that he keeps in his wallet. Unfortunately, due to wear and tear, the picture was much damaged and yet, this was the most valued possession in Kevin’s life. Kevin was emotional when he showed me the picture and credited her as to the reason he turned out to be who he is today. Kevin was then released to the foster youth system. He navigated the system until he uncle was released from prison in Nevada. Kevin was sent to live with his uncle. This did not last very long and Kevin quickly learned to fend for himself. Today, Kevin is a student in the business program at Chaffey College where he is desperate to be successful. His definition of success is to do well and help others with his skills. In my twenty years of teaching in higher education (Chaffey College, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State Fullerton), I have never met anyone like him. Kevin is a 21 year old African American student who has more wisdom, gumption and perseverance than anyone I’ve come across. My colleagues and I have all been so inspired by his story that we collectively do what we can to help him. We call him “the forty year old man” because of his maturity and because he is always planning for the future. Kevin now works part time at Chaffey College and take a one hour bus ride to a tiny room that he rents in the back of a business in Ontario. A colleague who was so touched by his story gave him her son’s bicycle before the winter break. My colleagues and I took a collection and, after borrowing his grandmother’s photo from him, had it professionally restored and enlarged. We gifted him the enlarged version in a beautiful frame as well as several small pictures for his wallet. It would mean so much for Kevin to be awarded the $500. It wouldn’t be just the amount, although that would help him greatly with textbooks for the upcoming spring semester. Being awarded the $500 from the HLC Team of Broadview Mortgage would be another boost in confidence for Kevin. He told me that he no longer feels “alone in the world.” I know that the HLC team would see what we see in Kevin if they met him. I hope the team does meet him to award him this generous gift. My wish would be for him to be awarded the $500 gift and being encouraged to come back to the Broadview Mortgage team for an internship after completing a set number of business classes. Respectfully, Thierry Brusselle

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