Success Story: H. Sluyter
If you ask H. Sluyter what she is most proud of, “keeping her sanity” comes to the front of her mind. The two-time Bernie Scholarship recipient is the single mother of a nine-year-old girl and a six-month-old baby boy, she works full-time for the federal government and goes to school part-time at the University of Baltimore. It is a heavy load, but she says she will not give up her schooling.
Raised in Baltimore, the 29-year-old Sluyter is the oldest of three children. Her mother was also a single mother. “Being a single parent, raising a family on one income is difficult,” she says. “When I first had my son, I remember breastfeeding him and doing homework, studying, and being happy I didn’t have to go to work because I was on maternity leave at the time. Emotionally, I try not to dwell on my challenges. When I do get down, I keep reminding myself where I came from, where I’m at now, and where I’m trying to go.”
Where she is eventually headed is into the world of corporate law. Sluyter says she finds litigation exciting and challenging and would like to work for a large company. Because of her obligations, she also needs a lucrative career. Recently, she took a macro-economics course, so she’s started thinking about international business or working as a corporate attorney for a company with offices in other countries.
She hopes her education, combined with her business and administrative experience, can make that goal a reality. She already has an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies from Montgomery College. By the fall, she will have earned an Associate’s degree in Business as well. Technically, she will be a senior next year. In a year and a half, she will receive her Bachelor’s degree in Business and then go on to law school. Her goal is to complete law school in three years.
Sluyter starting work at the age of 15. She says she’s worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes, Foot Locker, a call center, and a music store. The past two years she’s been working at the U. S. Department of Commerce. She was recently promoted to Division Office Manager. Due to her full-time employment, most of her classes are taken online and at night.
Her first Bernie Scholarship was awarded in 2017. While the Seneca Valley High School graduate has also received assistance through a federal Pell grant and other scholarships, Sluyter says she can only take as many classes “as her scholarships will allow.” That usually amounts to about three courses per semester. She says her income goes toward daycare ($430/week) and for living expenses such as her new home in Montgomery County.
“What motivates me is knowing that I can do better,” says Sluyter. “I want a better life for myself and my kids. When I start something, I have to finish it. I’ve established all these goals, and when I knock them down, I set some more. I don’t have much of a support system. A lot of people depend on me.”
She says her mother focuses on her two younger siblings, and she’s happy that “she doesn’t have to worry about me.” “I keep reminding myself that it’s only me, and I have to play all these roles since I have two small children,” says Sluyter.
“I want to thank my friends,” she says. “They tell me they are proud of me and look up to me. Knowing that both my mother and father are college graduates has let me know that it is in me. They kind of set the standard.”
In Her Own Words (Excerpt from Sluyter’s speech given at the Awards Ceremony May 2018)
“So how do I do it? How do you make all this happen?
Strategic Time Management
Short-term sacrifices for my long-term dream
The internal will to succeed and not give up on my investment
Dedication- reminding myself that these hurdles will soon be over and my classes would still be there
Being extremely resourceful
I was also very strategic when I asked others for help. The help I had was very limited, so I had to use it wisely.
I am learning from my failures.
I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell them, and you can do it too. If you’re dedicated and really want something, no one or anything will get in your way. I hope I inspired you. Keep your head up and do not give up.”