2019 Scholarship Winner, Sara Banton

2019 Scholarship Winner, Sara Banton

Though it seems increasingly common to hear that more children are being raised in single-parent households, a population of which I am a part of, according to a report published by the Institute for Family Studies in 2018, 7 in 10 children still live with two parents. This statistic has remained static since 2000, which continues to leave us as the minority.[1] Whether a child lost touch with a parent due to divorce, because of an accident or medical reasons, or even if they have never met them, we all learn from our parents, be it from their mistakes or their grace. I lost my father in 2010 from cancer, but among the many things he taught me in the first ten years of my life, and among the many things I continue to learn from him despite his passing, is that the right education will take you exactly where you want to be in life.

My father was a skilled craftsman, who specialized in welding and carpentry, but was a jack of all trades. He excelled in the private schools he attended, was a Boy Scout, and an accomplished cadet and marksman in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC)—which I also chose to participate in at my own high school, following in his footsteps. My father knew the importance of education; though he never attended college himself, after graduating from high school, he went on to further his education to maximize the skills he had. He made the best decision for himself, based on his skill set and interests, by attending vocational schools for both welding and carpentry.

College can help you attain great things and prepare you with valuable knowledge—but it is not suited for everyone. My father did not attend college, but that does not mean he was not successful, either. He obtained the proper education for the career that he sought and it was one that he was very successful in. At the school I currently attend, James Madison University, a large population of my classmates are from the Northern Virginia/D.C. area, whereas I live in a rural community outside of Richmond City. Many of my classmates’ parents work for the government, high-end jobs, or for big-name corporations. To contrast, my father worked in a factory beneath a bridge leading into the city and my mother works at the Richmond Airport. A few days ago, as I was talking to a classmate in my political theory class, we got on the topic of our parents’ careers. She mentioned what her parents do: her mother works for Boeing and her father in marketing. When I told her that neither of my parents went to college, but nevertheless held respectable jobs, she just shrugged and told me, “It’s cool that you’re a first-generation college student, at least.” I felt like I needed to defend my parents, but I wanted her comment to roll off my back, since I do enjoy being a first-generation college student and I do admire my parents’ work.

My skill set lies within the writing domain. I enjoy everything from creative writing to news writing to copy editing and I am furthering my education in the way I know would work best for me. Like my father went to vocational school because he was a skilled craftsman, I attend college because it was the best choice for me as a writer with a desire to learn more. Now, I seek to do the best I can at James Madison. My mother, a single-parent, puts aside buying a new car—even though her Suburban has well over 300,000 miles and rusting doors—or going on vacations to put me through school, and before me, another four years for me older sister. Ronald Reagan once admired single parents through his quote, “Many single parents in America are making valiant efforts on behalf of their children under trying circumstances… single parents deserve our recognition and appreciation for their demonstrated dedication to their young” and I believe that this truly reflects my mother’s dedication to my sister and I and recognizes the sacrifices she has made since my father’s passing.[2] The loss of my father caused my family to revert to no income, force my mother to leave behind her stay-at-home work, and leave us with a large amount of medical bills to attend to. Nonetheless, as my mother continues to support me through college, I do my best to excel, to make it worthwhile and worth the money.

My father would have encouraged me to continue advancing in my education since I study something that I enjoy, just like he did. It was even his work that caused his death. Spending 8 to 10 hours a day in a welding factory, he constantly breathed in ash, soot, and smoke, causing esophageal cancer to form. He worked hard—his work uniforms were burnt and torn, his hands calloused and stained, his feet and back aching, but his heart full of pride. He worked a humble job to raise a humble family. My father attained the most proper education for what he sought to do, in what he was skilled at, and doing what he enjoyed. He serves as my role model day after day to continue getting out of bed, going to class, and achieve my own proper education. We may have taken completely separate paths, but in the end, he and I will both have been content with our life choices. I hope that, like my father, I will be just as successful as him.

[1] Wang, Wendy. “The Majority of U.S. Children Still Live in Two-Parent Families.” Institute for Family Studies.

October 4, 2018. Accessed February 12, 2019. Link.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau. “Single Parent Day.” Census Bureau. August 01, 2018. Accessed February 12, 2019. Link.

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