Student Success Story, Raquel Wilbon
May 05, 2015
“This journey has been like no other in my life,” Raquel Wilbon began.
Her stats list her as a 1988 graduate from West Tech High School, currently enrolled at Tri-C and petitioned to graduate in May 2015 with an Associate of Arts degree. In the fall, she will be attending Cleveland State University to major in English and Theater.
Going a little deeper, one discovers Wilbon is a published author and a single mother of two girls—Judea (10) and Aza (9).
Delving into her story further, we discover her love of writing began at a very early age—when she was only eight years old. Wilbon grew up in an abusive environment; her mother was abused by her father and then by her second husband. To cope with the chaos surrounding her, Wilbon began wring in a notebook in the corner of her bedroom while her parents fought. The more she wrote, the more her love for English grew. Eventually, her writings turned into daily journaling, poems and short stories.
They say the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, and, in Wilbon’s case, that was true. She, herself, ended up in a relationship similar to her mother’s. Finally, after years of living in hell, stagnant and depressed, she heard a voice saying: “Do what your mother didn’t.” It wasn’t until she found the courage to leave that she realized what the message meant: To do something and become a different person for herself and for her daughters.
When Wilbon liberated them, all she and her daughters had were a garbage bag full of clothes and a food stamp card. However, she also left with something else she didn’t realize at the time—determination and grit to better herself, and, in turn, provide a better life for her daughters.
At one point, Wilbon and her daughters were squatting in a foreclosed home until they were discovered and evicted. Around this time—in 2011—she discovered and enrolled in Tri-C’s Women in Transition (WIT) program. In 2012, at the urging of WIT’s director, Cicely Campbell, Wilbon enrolled at Tri-C. Since then, she hasn’t looked back.
Wilbon’s list of accomplishments is long. She was a member of the Eastern Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa; recipient of the Completion Scholarship; former student reporter for The Voice (Tri-C’s student newspaper); and judge for community-based writing and poetry competitions. She’s also been published in Breakwall (Tri-C’s student publication). Currently, she coaches elementary-aged children in an after-school writing program and works in the campus Writing Center.
“I’ve broken every barrier set before me,” Wilbon said.
She said she couldn’t have succeeded without Tri-C. “Tri-C has given me so many tools and resources that have helped me both professionally and personally.”
Wilbon plans to continue “growing her craft” by publishing more of her writings published as well as penning an autobiography.
“I hope my story shows others what can happen when you stick to it,” she said. “Oftentimes, we tell ourselves that we want something better, but don’t do the work needed to to achieve the goal. I want to encourage others to push through the obstacles because a reward is always at the end.”
With that courage, determination and grit, Wilbon certainly will find her reward.