Students wrote stories like this one in the JRN 115 Intro to Media Writing course, taught by Alan Blanchard, associate professor of journalism – Editor.
Being a first-generation high school graduate and college student is something to be proud of and a celebration for the whole family. But what if your whole family wasn’t there to celebrate?
Sophomore Devontez Tate, born and raised in Indianapolis, is the first in his family not only to go to college, but to graduate high school. He currently is on a full-ride scholarship at Taylor University. Growing up, he originally desired to become a police officer or a preacher.
Tate moved often with his mother, Amanda Tate, and two younger sisters until the age of 12 when it became the inseparable duo of Tate and his mother. Moving all across the country from Ohio to Iowa, Tate’s mother struggled financially and worked odd jobs to get by.
“Some of my favorite memories with my mom would be watching movies together, going downtown and riding the paddle boats,” Tate said. “Just spending time together doing anything.”
“The most influential person in my life would be my mom,” he added. “She was there for everything. She made me feel a way no one has yet to make me feel. She always thought I was so amazing, and I had so much potential. She was my world.”
However, while Tate had a childhood, he wasn’t exactly treated as a child by his mother.
“My childhood consisted of knowing everything my mom was doing,” he said. “My mom matured me at a young age by letting me in on the adult conversations; I was a curious kid.”
As a result of his mother being in and out of jail, Tate was forced to move into a more stable living situation.
“My mom was in and out of jail so I would stay with family members until I started staying with a family at 12, who has since considered me family,” Tate said. “This family took care of me when I had no one else.”
Tate began to thrive in his education. Life for him was going great until December of 2016, when his mother passed away due to an overdose of heroin. She was on life support for two days before being taken off. Tate was just 16-years-old.
He said he felt a sense of loss and numbness he felt with his mother’s passing.
“My initial reaction to my mom’s passing was unbelief,” Tate said. “I just didn’t really process it.”
He remembers the denial he felt following his mother’s death.
“I always like to stay strong, and not let things affect me,” he added. “I didn’t even realize it affected me till months later. I just changed a lot of the things I did, and the way I did them. I think it just was a big part of me that died, when she died. She was the one who loved me regardless of anything. She would do anything to see me smile.”
Despite this trial, he continued to thrive and prevail through high school. Though he struggled, he found motivation in the things in his life that reminded him of his mother.
“My little sisters are what motivate me to continue college and get my degree. It has been what motivated me through high school,” he said. “Also, my mom, because she always said I would do great things.”
He doesn’t deny his struggle to stay motivated and keep his eye on the prize.
“There have been several times I have wanted to give up, but I personally know I would never let myself get to that point,” he said. “I want to be the best I can be so giving up isn’t an option.”
Finally, in 2018, Tate graduated high school, becoming the first in his family to do so.
“Being a first-generation student is amazing, I want to be the best person I can be in this lifetime,” he said. “Knowing my mom is gone makes me want to go as far as I can.”
Now in 2021, Tate has a lot of dreams and aspirations, including now working within a federal agency once graduating college.
“The thought of being able to support my family and my own financial needs is what motivates me every day,” he said. “I want to have a stable household.”
Five years after his mother’s passing, Tate continues to credit his mom for part of his motivation and success to keep on going.
“My mom was also my main motivation in life, she was my other half,” he said. “We were so close, and she encouraged me so much. She thought of me in a light that no one else has.”
He also credits his faith as being a big contributor to his perseverance and success through his life.
“God has put so many people in my life that would have never been in my life,” he said. “God has just given me strength and courage to get through everything I’ve been through. God has given me opportunities that I will forever be grateful for.”
When looking back at his life, he comes up with his life motto.
“My motto to live by every day is YOLO (You Only Live Once,) because it’s true,” he said. “Seeing my mom on that hospital bed at the young age of 34, showed me that you only live once. She will never be here again.”