Scratching and Clawing To Reach the American Dream -- Student Profile: Loveth Offor
After emigrating from Nigeria as an 8-year old with her mom and two younger siblings, one of Loveth Offor’s first memories was trying a grape for the first time.
“I had never eaten them before and remember thinking ‘So, how do you eat this?”, Loveth said.
This innocuous lesson would become the first of what would become a tumultuous educational experience in a brand new world.
Upon entering the public school system in Florida, Loveth discovered that she would immediately be required to repeat third grade. As if adjusting to life in a foreign country wasn’t difficult enough, Loveth faced the daunting task of navigating the playground politics of elementary school.
“That’s where things got rough for me. Other students sabotaged me and school was the worst place ever—even though I was a good student in Nigeria, loved reading, and was a people person at a very young age,” Loveth shared. “I was picked on a lot because I had dark skin and an accent.”
Not long after getting settled in America and beginning the pursuit of the American Dream, Loveth’s parents separated. Loveth and her two younger siblings found themselves on their own much of the time as their father moved out and their mother worked as an overnight security guard.
“I was kind of on my own and never had anybody help me with anything, or even remind me to do my homework,” Loveth said. “We would have to get ourselves up and get to school ourselves and soon found out that if we got there early enough, we would be able to get something for breakfast.”
Exasperated by the frustrations of school without support from her teacher or principal—and already attempting to survive at home with minimal parent support—Loveth ran away from school one day.
“I ran through the ‘hood in tears because I couldn’t stand it anymore,” Loveth said.
In later years, Loveth would lie to her mother about being suspended from school and risk the subsequent consequences of that admission just to avoid having to go to school.
“To this day, I think my mom still believes that I was suspended,” Loveth admitted.
Loveth’s family struggled by moving from one apartment and school district to another while her mom toiled away just to survive. Yet, an inkling of the power of education began developing inside Loveth.
“I came to realize that all this suffering to get the American Dream wasn’t worth it,” Loveth said. “My mom came here with a 6th grade education and we’d have to shower at friends’ apartments because she couldn’t pay the bills to keep running water and electricity in our apartment.”
Loveth came to cherish the local library as a safe haven and spent most of her free time there reading, drawing, and dreaming about her future. Although the wandering, rebellious adolescent years drove a wedge in the relationship between mother and daughter, it was a creative drawing session on the walls of their apartment complex (aka graffiti) that served as the final straw.
At the age of 13, Loveth moved across the country to live with her aunt in Corona, California. The change of scenery was far from complete as she would end up attending four middle schools on both sides of the continent before settling in Fontana with an older sister and eventually enrolling in Bloomington High School.
“I remember coming to school and feeling lost and like I didn’t know my purpose,” Loveth said as she described the challenging middle school years. “All my drive was lost, I didn’t know what would happen next, and I didn’t have any idea what my path of life would look like.”
As a freshman at Bloomington, a sense of geographical stability proved to be the antidote to her academic challenges as she earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
“I decided to focus on school because I had nothing else to hold on to in life. I started doing well because of the rewards and praises I got from my teachers. I thought this was my only motivation to continue living,” Loveth said. “That’s when I realized I could go forward in life and that I am smart and don’t have to be stuck."
FROM DESPAIR TO COLLEGE DREAMS AND BACK T0 DESPAIR
It wasn’t until speaking with her counselor during her junior year that Loveth considered the possibility of college. Her dream was to pursue a degree in theater, music, or the fine arts.
Loveth pursued this opportunity with fervor and applied to ten different colleges including five UC campuses and four CSU locations. Despite being accepted into eight different schools, Loveth faced a new challenge that entangles the upwardly mobile dreams of many high school students —the impossibility of paying for college.
“I had hoped to receive some financial assistance from my older sisters, but they were telling me I needed to pursue a degree that could help support my younger brothers and theater was not going to cut it,” Loveth said.
As her lofty dreams of college began to crumble, her counselor mentioned a program at San Bernardino Valley College called the Valley-Bound Commitment (VBC).
“I was in tears because now I couldn’t live out my dreams if money wasn’t involved. I thought I could no longer make college a reality but my counselor gave me a VBC brochure and told me I should apply,” Loveth recalled. “I remember thinking ‘And, now I’m going to have to go to community college and find new dreams?”
Loveth eventually turned in her application on the very last day, took her assessment test, soaked in the campus vibe, and came away impressed with the possibilities at SBVC. Shortly thereafter, she received the phone call that welcomed her to the Valley-Bound Commitment program where she would enjoy the first year of college for free.
“I was ecstatic because I had no idea how I was going to pay for my dreams. I was so shocked about how lucky I was to be in a program that was going to help with the books and everything else,” Loveth said. “The money problem disappeared and it was like, my future really starts here.”
At the first Valley-Bound Commitment orientation in the summer of 2011, Loveth arrived with her older sister—still wondering if there was a catch somewhere.
“We still thought that maybe this was too good to be true,” Loveth admitted. “But, we soon realized that this program is definitely here to help. I remember thinking that maybe things happen for a reason and this is going to motivate me to keep doing well in school.”
“I FEEL SO GUIDED”
Loveth recently completed her first semester as a full-time college student at SBVC with a 3.385 grade point average.
“I feel that this experience in the Valley-Bound Commitment is a foundation to my new life and starting my future. I really feel like I can do anything. Even if I’m making mistakes, I can get things together,” Loveth said. “I feel so guided and it is so amazing. I don’t feel alone with my schooling anymore.”
Loveth’s new career goals hearken back to her high school days when she used to volunteer to work with cancer patients at Loma Linda University.
“In high school, I had visions of being a doctor in my future, but struggled in my chemistry and biology courses and didn’t think I could do it,” Loveth said. “Now, I want to become a nurse, go on to get my bachelors and master’s degrees, and join the Peace Corps to see what opportunities are out there.”
Looking back on the times when she ran away from school, what would Loveth say to young kids struggling in middle school as she once did?
“I’d tell them not to limit themselves or be intimidated by authority figures. Because of my tribulations, I can see myself helping students that were stuck like me and motivating them to reach for the stars and to never give up even when people give up on you.”