The young girl enjoyed playing in her room; she was content to teach for hours. Her stuffed animals and baby dolls made the best students. As she passed out their worksheets for the day, she explained to them, “People can be mean; they can steal your toys and cheat off your paper, but no one can ever take your education away from you. Never ever!”
From an early age, I valued education. I remember telling “grownups” when I was in elementary school, “One day I’m going to get my PhD!”
I’m sure my parents thought I was a naive dreamer, but they never let on. They encouraged me every step of the way. When I decided to enroll in graduate school, my mom said, “God put this desire in your heart. Not many people dream of getting a doctorate. Go for it!”
Eight years later and I finally achieved my dream. It took a lot of hard work, social support from family and friends, and God’s goodness but I am proud to say that on April 11, 2016 I passed my dissertation defense. It still seems surreal. I feel awkward each time I introduce myself as Dr. Ford.
You see, it’s not so much the title, but its the journey. I have always enjoyed a good challenge, and this one stretched me professionally and personally. I have learned so much along the way, and one of the lessons I’ve learned is gratitude. I’d like to take this time to express my appreciation to a few people who impacted my life throughout this journey. I hesitate to do this because I will surely leave someone out, so please know this is not an exhaustive list.
Jeff – Thanks for putting up with microwave dinners and an unkempt house; thanks for helping me to set healthy boundaries and teaching me to prioritize. I love you!
Jorjanne – Thanks for believing in me when I questioned myself; thanks for giving me grace when you wanted to chat and I was typing away. You were very patient with me.
To the brave women who shared their stories for my research – Not only did you help me to accomplish a dream but your words have the potential to encourage other survivors for years to come! I admire you.
Tony & Wendy Farmer, Randy & Melody Hester, and Kalib & Mari Wilkinson – Thanks for opening your home and your pantry to me on numerous occasions! You saved me thousands!!!
Mama and Hershell – Thanks for your constant encouragement and for all the free babysitting! Mama, thanks for sitting through the defense and praying for me.
Daddy – You may be the only person who wanted this more than I did.
Bobbie – Thanks for the road trips to Lynchburg and the fun adventures along the way. You make learning fun!
To my Liberty friends — I thank God for you and look forward to seeing what the future holds for each of you.