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Pushing forward
Mom of 5 finds support, opportunity at JCSU
 
Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 5:34 pm
by LaConteau Williams

 

Being a single mother of five, attending college miles away from home with no family or help isn’t stopping Michelle Cade from pursuing her goals at Johnson C. Smith University.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Michelle Cade, a junior at Johnson C. Smith University, took a leap of faith to move to Charlotte in pursuit of a college education. She did it for her children: (from left) Kristopher Brown Jr. 13, Krista Brown 9, Mehki Hawk 6, Kris'Sean Brown 12 and Gerald Hawk III, 3.


In 2010, seeing little future for her family and herself in Detroit, Cade, 35, was convinced that Charlotte was destiny for her.  With only $1,100 in her pocket, she packed her belongings, put her kids in her van and drove to Charlotte.


When Cade arrived, she had to think fast in order to provide shelter for her family.  She checked into Microtel on Sugar Creek with only enough funds to last a week. She wondered how she was going to make it.


She did what she does in most difficult situations.  She prayed. 


“I asked God to give me a sign,” she said. 


At the end of her first week in Charlotte, her prayers were answered.  She found an apartment in the Hidden Valley neighborhood, and the manager waived the security deposit. It has been this kind of faith that has allowed Cade to make it to her second year at JCSU.


Before attending JCSU, Cade, a junior communications major, attended Clark Atlanta University but dropped out after her freshmen year. At the time the mother of two was unable to focus completely on her studies and became distracted by the social life and freedom she had acquired in college. She moved back to Detroit but in her heart she knew she had a purpose to fulfill.  When she finally decided to return to school Cade purposely chose a historically black college.


“I felt it was important to return back to an HBCU,” Cade said. “Historically black colleges have always made me feel at home, something I was missing in my upbringing.”


After attending Central Piedmont College for a couple of semesters, Cade enrolled at JCSU in August. “I wanted to be a positive example for my children,” she said. “How could I honestly tell them to go to college if I had never graduated from college?” Her children – who range in ages from 13 to 3 – are her source of motivation when times get rough.


For most college students, campus life is filled with parties, socializing and having as much fun as possible. For Cade, it’s a little different.
Weekday mornings, she gets her children ready for school and daycare. After school she cooks dinner, helps with homework, and gets the children ready for bed. Afterwards she can study and have some alone time.


“It’s rough being in college with kids,” Cade said. “It is very stressful and I often miss my family. But this process has shown me how strong I am.”


She also is involved in extracurricular activities. Cade is a member of JCSU’s Toastmaster’s club and president of the National Association of Black Journalists. That involvement helps Cade maintain a social life on campus. She is employed in the before and after school program with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.


Her outspoken and insistent nature has helped her build strong relationships on campus with administration and faculty. One professor offered her assistance with finding a summer internship, while another faculty member met with her to discuss locating scholarships and grants.


At the start of the fall semester, Cade struggled to secure money to buy books and pay off her student account balance. To make matters worse, her van was stolen, forcing her to sometimes walk to school. One day she cried the entire walk to campus.


“Once my car was stolen I was completely ready to give up and return home,” she recalled.


But Cade has learned how to maneuver around town and often gets rides to work and school. Classmates have provided a helping hand by driving her home, but the lack of transportation has proven to be trying. She has even had to remove her kids from some school activities because she doesn’t have a reliable ride.


Why does Cade continue to pursue her education amidst these struggles? She wants a better life for her family.


“My children are my biggest blessing,” she said, “and my blessing to them is giving them a better life.”


A mother of one girl and four boys, Cade always makes time in her busy schedule to spend time with her children. Her children are also a big help to her. Her oldest two sons help out by babysitting the younger children and helping to get them ready for school. 


Cade says she couldn’t have made it this far by herself. She credits JCSU English professor Cheryl Brayboy with helping her along the way.


“Mrs. Brayboy helps to expand my mind, pushes me to be a better student and gives me one on one attention,” Cade said. “I know she cares not only about my education, but she cares about me being a mother as well.”


Said Brayboy: “Michelle Cade is one of the most dedicated students I have had the pleasure of knowing. “Michelle is a sharp thinker who does not allow hard times to get in the way of success. I truly admire her energy and drive.”

 

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