*(Author’s Note: The following is the first draft of my article submitted to Suffolk News-Herald on March 12, 2014. Initially, the original title that I had in mind was “Education is the Solution.” After I’ve written the piece, I changed it to The Importance of Education.)
With all the societal problems we have such as poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, economic inequality, to name a few, I have come to the conclusion that a good, decent education is the answer. If we have a good, decent education, we become productive, useful, responsible, and law-abiding citizens. We can also inspire others to become successful, in their own way.
Parents play a vital role in educating their children and should do all they can to give them the best education they deserve. Parental support and encouragement can go a long way in 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 eleven children. My father was a laborer doing odd jobs while my mother a homemaker, and they could hardly send us to high school. I stayed with my paternal grandparents, then with my older 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 ten students out of seven hundred 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 to 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, though, 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 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 to join the Navy. It was a wonderful learning experience providing medical care and radiologic services to patients from one duty station to another. Eleven out of twenty years were spent here in Virginia. After twenty 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 truly 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, I believe, 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 that my story will inspire students, especially high schoolers, 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, law-abiding 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