A Beautiful Struggle


Jimmieka Mills

Cynthia Hall, member of the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Jimmieka Mills, News Editor

Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the nation. It’s no surprise that Houston Community College is full of an array of individuals with completely different sets of experiences.

All students experience some degree of struggle on our way to achieving our goals. Many non-traditional students enroll at HCC after a long hiatus, often returning to obtain a certificate for a better position at work or for other personal reasons.

Cynthia Hall is a non-traditional student; after attempting to obtain a degree in accounting in the 80s, personal issues stood in the way of her pursuing her education.

“I was separated from my husband and wanted to better myself,” explained Hall, but, “I had to stop and go to work to take care of my kids.”

During this time, Hall’s children began experiencing health issues, “My kids were going in and out of the hospital. I was a full time mother, nurse, house keeper and anything else that came with raising kids.”

These unfortunate circumstances would lead to her next attempt at obtaining a degree.

“I was constantly in and out of the hospital dealing with doctors. I was encouraged by the staff at Ben Taub Hospital to think about becoming a respiratory therapist.” Hall’s children suffer from Asthma.

However, the same struggles that led her to decide to return to school would be the reason she ultimately had to drop out again.

“My second time was the fall semester of 1995. I attended HCC Southeast Jones high school campus and it had grown into the Gulfgate area campus. I was 36 at the time and it was very difficult. My kids kept getting sick and I had no one to keep them while I was in class.”

Hall focused all of her attention on her family and admits that there was a period when she completely lost focus of her dreams.

However, in 2000 Hall turned her grief of losing her grandmother into a guiding force. She attended a ministry school and became a state-licensed minister in 2009. Hall holds church services on the side of her house and feeds churchgoers.

She recalls an experience that she feels foreshadowed her most recent return to HCC, “someone asked me if I was a nurse. I said ‘no,’ but I do take care of people for a living. He said, ‘You will be going back to school.’ I thought to myself ‘Yeah right. I have had enough of school.’”

Hall’s major is undeclared, but she says she knows that her calling is to help those in need—whether it be through taking care of the sick, taking care of her congregation or taking care of her neighbors.

Hall was raised and still lives in Sunnyside. She remembers her childhood being  filled with neighborly love and weekend fishing trips.

She points out that Sunnyside today, “is a far cry from when I grew up here. Jail, drugs and death is a big part of the cycle here.”

“I have seen injustice firsthand when my son was tased in front of me and a crowd of witnesses. I was even threatened by the police to be tased myself!”

She explains that her experience with the prison system has spanned years, and now her son is serving time in jail. Hall is determined to do whatever it takes to keep her children out of the prison cycle, but that it has been a painful and traumatizing experience for Hall and her family.

Hall’s determination to support her children’s futures would lead her right back to where she started over 20 years ago: at college.

Hall still experiences struggles at home and in school, but this time she admits that her outlook on school has changed over the years.

“Now school is like my Calgon moment ‘take me away!’ I can forget and leave that stuff behind me out there for a little while. I feel empowered and strong when I am learning.”

She said that, “Finding time to study is my number one obstacle. I live with my mother, son, his wife and their 4-month-old baby.”

Though study time may be scarce in her household, Hall’s new enthusiasm for higher learning is showing. In January, Hall was nominated to join the National Society of Leadership and Success.

“I pray for the ones who are coming after me to have a better life,” says Hall, “I hope one day to have my own church or at least a place to help the young people in my hood choose life.”

Her advice to other non-traditional students is: “Don’t listen while people tell you you are too old. It is never too late to do something for yourself.”