With a working single mother, two siblings, and an extremely low household income, slipping out of poverty and into the middle class wasn’t just a walk in the park. There were many things that pulled me out and placed me among the small thirty percent of people who are able to break free from the lower class. Unfortunately, the other seventy percent of people may dream to escape the cycle of poverty, but don’t feel able to do so.
From subsidized school lunches and the constant stress of money to my dream job at Google and buying groceries without a worry, how did I do it? How did I beat the odds and leave the cycle of poverty? Some may claim I was among the lucky ones. But the truth is that luck isn’t responsible for my success.
Here is how I did it, and how you can do it too:
I got an education. Although my family was extremely poor, I was blessed with a strong desire to attend college no matter the cost. I knew that scholarships would be my best resource, but wasn’t afraid of taking out loans if it meant I would gain the control I needed to accomplish my dreams.
But it wasn’t ever just about a signed and sealed diploma. I knew that as a college graduate, I was 5.3 times more likely to leave the lower class than a non-graduate.
My education gave me the knowledge and resources I needed to move forward. BYU provided me with: the confidence I have today, my full-time job at Google, and an invaluable alumni network. It set me up to succeed in a world where dreams are possible.
I believed. I didn’t care if I wasn’t qualified or if my previous experience wasn’t “enough.” When I was in high school, I believed I could make the cheer squad. Although I was painfully inflexible and couldn’t stay on beat to save my life, I dedicated an entire summer to nailing those tryouts.
I knew the bridge kickover, a fancy gymnastics stunt, would add points to my score.
Although I put in the time and worked hard every day, I was disappointed. My bridge kickover wasn’t complete and I only had a few more weeks to get it right. Despite this aggravating realization, I believed I would be able to stand in front of the coaches and gracefully do my thing. By believing and practicing persistently, I made the cheer squad.
You have to believe in yourself before applying to college, trying out for a team, or interviewing for your dream job. When you believe, you become your own inspiration to take action.
I asked for help. I asked for help more than I could ever quantify. Frankly, any successful person, however they define success, must admit that they didn’t and couldn’t have done it alone.
I asked for help in my high school statistics class, writing my admission essays for college, in every class at BYU, preparing for interviews, you name it. Even when I felt that my work was ready to be turned in, I always asked someone to review it. I knew that my best work wasn’t possible without someone else’s point of view.
My perspective isn’t perfect and I don’t know everything. I have always sought to find those who can add value to my work and my knowledge. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. One of the bravest acknowledgements you can make is that you don’t know how to perfect a homework assignment now, but you want to learn how.
You can’t do it alone. With even the smallest aid, you will be placed on a path leading to your perfect destination. Before you reach your goals, you must leave your pride at the door and ask for help. If you don’t ask, how will you learn?
If you had told me I wouldn’t be poor in my adulthood, I would’ve smiled and said, “I know.” It’s not that twelve year-old-me was overly confident in what I could accomplish, but even as a child, I believed I would accomplish my dreams.
I’ve always said, “When I grow up, all I want to be is happy.” To me, that meant out of poverty and into a life where my biggest worries didn’t revolve around money. Today, I am happy and living my dream because I got an education, believed, and asked for help.
What will you do to get out?