I have come to the conclusion that a good education is the answer to the societal problems we have, from poverty and illiteracy to alcohol and drug abuse to crime and teenage pregnancy.
When we have had a good education, we become productive, responsible and law-abiding citizens. We can also inspire others to become successful in the their own way.
Parents play a vital role in the educating their children and should do all they can to give their children the education they deserve. Parental support and encouragement can go a long way toward ensuring students' academic success.
Children in poverty can also aspire to improve their conditions by obtaining a quality education. To these children, poverty is not a hindrance.
This situation, in fact, describes my life growing up in the Philippines in a family of 11 children. My father was a laborer doing odd jobs, while my mother was a homemaker. They could hardly send us to high school.
I stayed with my paternal grandparents and my older (married) sisters, who tried to help me continue my schooling. Eventually, I became a self-supporting student who had to transfer from one high school to another while working several jobs.
My diligence, perseverance and hard work paid off when I graduated from high school as one of the top 10 students out of (about) 700 graduates. After graduation, I had wanted to join the U.S. Navy when Subic Naval Base, in Olongapo, was still in existence, but because I knew no one who could assist me with the application process, I put that dream on hold.
With financial assistance from my relatives who immigrated to the U.S., I matriculated to college. I didn't disappoint them, because after four years, i became the first in my family to graduate from college and blazed the trail for my nephews, nieces and children.
After college and passing the teachers' board exam, I taught at private and public high schools, while pursuing graduate studies on weekends. I later landed a job as a college instructor at (the) University of Northern Philippines prior to emigrating to the United States.
After working for two years in San Jose, California, I finally realized my high school dream of joining the Navy. It was a wonderful learning experience providing health/medical care and radiologic exams/services to patients from one duty station to another. Eleven out of 20 years were spent here in Virginia.
After 20 years of military service, with a wife who teaches chemistry and two young adult children, both gainfully employed college graduates, I had to retire due to physical disability. despite this, I still try to share my passion for educational empowerment.
I believe that if you have a good education, you can always use it wherever you go, and nobody can take it away from you. In addition, it takes a village to raise a child. Hence, I am forever indebted to my family, teachers and co-workers who have inspired me to overcome obstacles and challenges to succeed in life.
Success is not about how much money I have but how much I've lived and turned my life around for the better.
I hope my story will inspire students, especially in high school, to stay in school and obtain higher education or to join the military and further their education.
A good education enables us to be free, responsible, productive citizens. Being able to think independently, speak up or voice out your opinion fearlessly, worship your own religion, practice your profession and to have a choice since you have a voice---that is liberating.
-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a resident of North Suffolk, is a retired U.S. Navy veteran who maintains a blog at onebuddingpoet/writer-chris.blogspot.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
*revised/edited version of my original article, "The Importance of Education" and was published Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Suffolk News-Herald, an award-winning newspaper and Suffolk's news and information source since 1873. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.