“You can do anything you want to do in life,” my mother always said. “But you’ll need an education to get there.”
When I was in school, my mother’s convictions about education placed a premium on homework and studying. Bringing home anything less than an “A” on a test was not acceptable. My mother worked three jobs, so she understood the value of hard work and how education transforms lives. Mom had me focused on being successful at an early age. She made sure I understood proper etiquette and appearance – how to dress right, how to speak right, how to sit right. Presentation was everything.
Because Mom worked so much, I was a latchkey kid. But I had specific instructions when I got home from school. Homework came before everything. And completing homework meant more than just answering the assigned questions. I had to spend time understanding what I was reading. I was very fortunate that my mother also encouraged me to read what I was interested in. This made a huge difference for me.
But there were obstacles along the way. As a young person, I was interested in a lot of other things. I had a lot of competing interests that sometimes steered me away from schoolwork. I was really into sports. Back then, I did not see how reading the classics would matter five, 10 or 20 years down the road.
I often think how valuable it would have been for me then to have had someone show me how hard work and discipline in the present would open doors later on. There were not enough mentors to talk to me about education. It underscores for me now how important mentors are to students of any age.
Fast forward through my 30-year career at UPS and I am still convinced that Mom was right: “If you are going to achieve your goals, get educated.”
Working with Business Leaders for Education in the 21st Century has convinced me of several things we need to do to improve the pace and quality of our education systems:
Too many of the world’s greatest challenges stem from insufficient or low quality educational opportunities. At my company, UPS, our charitable arm, the UPS Foundation, has established 30 endowments with organizations, colleges and universities. One of the endowments we created was in partnership with the Foundation for Independent Higher Education (FIHE).
In 1974, the UPS Foundation and FIHE announced the UPS Education Endowment Fund to benefit FIHE and its members. Today the endowment is valued at nearly $32 million. Since its founding, this fund has awarded over $44 million in scholarship support to more than 15,000 students nationwide.
This is just one example of how businesses can help fortify young minds. We need to continue to find ways to ease the path of prospective students who seek higher education, and ultimately a career.
As an employer, I have a responsibility to recruit new talent. Further, I have an obligation to develop the up and coming talent internal to my organization. All aspects of a successful career are founded on a strong education.
My mother’s philosophy of writing your own ticket if you are willing to educate yourself can be a reality for future generations. All of us – professionals, academics, legislators - have a responsibility to show them how.
Rosemary Turner is the president of the Chesapeake District of UPS.
All statements and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or NBC News.