Category Archives: Discovering student potential

Did I mention that I flunked out of college?

I was a sophomore in college and had transferred from one school to another with a 3.25 GPA. Obviously, I had the stuff when it came to studying and succeeding.  Or so I thought.   I’m sad to report that within one semester, I was bounced out of that new school with a whopping 1.25 GPA.  When my transcript came in the mail, I thought it might be bad but not that bad.  My dad was less than happy with me and my friends less than impressed. 

“No school for you. Don’t come back for one year!”

That fall when all of my college friends went back to school, I didn’t return.  I was on academic probation and had to spend the next months taking courses at yet another college and proving that I had what it took to be a college student in good academic standing.

By the following fall, I was accepted into Eastern University as a junior and happily graduated from there two years later.  It only took me four schools and five years to finish; but finish I did.

Why is she telling us all of this?

You may be asking yourself why I’m telling you all of this.  You’d think I’d want to keep something this embarrassing and humiliating to myself.  But the truth is that it was my failure that actually led to my success. 

Would I justify what it took for my grades to plummet?  No way!  I can share more about that with you offline.  But it’s what I did next that makes all the difference.

When I fell down, I could have stayed down.  I felt defeated and ashamed at 19 to be academically dismissed.  I could have called it quits right then and there.  I could have told myself I wasn’t cut out for college and that it just wasn’t for me.

Fail forward

But that failure led me to do some pretty deep soul-searching and in the absence of all of my friends, I had to decide that I’d do whatever it took to go back and finish. 

It would be great to tell you a wonderful story of how my dad encouraged me; that is after he got over wanting to disown me.  But that’s not what happened.  In fact, when I first heard the news that I flunked out I wanted to just give up and do something else with my life.

My dad’s words of wisdom and inspiration went something like this, “So you’re just going to sit around and do nothing.  I guess that’s it then Joe College—you’re not going to finish school, are you?”  It was like someone lit a fire under me.  The thought of my dad losing faith in me and being disappointed in me was too much.  I jumped off the couch where I’d spent my afternoons lounging and watching soap operas and said, “You just watch me!”  It was my pivotal moment.

So what does all of this have to do with you?

The most wonderful thing is that’s not the end of my story.  Not only did I go on to fall down many more times after, the main thing is that I kept getting back up and keep getting back up.  It’s not over till it’s over and I’m still here!

As parents, we tend to look at things in freeze frames.  I’m sure you’re quite happy that your life now is not judged on your life then because I have this funny feeling that I’m not alone!

So why do we do that to our kids?  We panic.  We fret. We feel guilty and inadequate.  We strive to do our best and hope and work toward better days.  All of that is part of where we are as we raise our kids.  So whether your child is getting on the school bus for the first time or pulling out the driveway in your car alone for the first time, the fact remains that we can’t control or oversee everything. 

They have to fail sometimes.  They have to fall down sometimes.  And the best thing we can do for them is model how to get back up.  We can show them how to learn from their mistakes and get back up and keep moving forward until they reach success.

Today’s Challenge

Join me today in seeing our kids beyond this moment.  Today as you look at your child, remind yourself that it’s not the end of the story.  Our children are evolving, growing, and learning.  And the truth is so are we!  So let’s partner with them in the everyday things and the big things.  Let’s stand by them and encourage them when they fall down and applaud them when they get back up.  Let’s remember the gifts and the treasure they possess inside and believe for them and in them until they can do that for themselves.

I’m so grateful that flunking out of college was only a chapter in my life; not the whole book.  I’ve written many chapters since and have many more yet to write.

Just a reminder that we’re standing and partnering with you to help your child write successful academic chapters that will bring a great return now and in the years to come.

Donna Duffy
Academic Connections Tutoring

Talking with our kids about what the future holds

     In a few days, our nation will write a new chapter into its history as we witness our first African-American president sworn into office.  It’s an exciting time, even as we face economic uncertainty and radical change.


     This is the perfect opportunity to engage our kids in a dialogue about this pivotal time.  Our teenagers will be soon be entering college and/or the job force.  What will they find there?  We are being called to a time of change–what will that mean for us and for them. 


     By discussing the local, national and international issues at hand, we can help kids as they shape and form opinions.  They need our input, feedback and critique.  They need to see us wrestle with challenges and respond with resilience and resourcefulness.  They need to see us step up along with others across the country to bring about the necessary changes that are required to get us back on track.


     Our kids may be scared as they hear the news that the “sky is falling” but we can help them stay positive and solution oriented.   We need to show them that the way forward is through and that we intend to go forward and to make the best of things.  Our kids are watching us–our actions, reactions and responses.  As we turn over the page to this new chapter, let’s offer hope and encouragement, guidance and counsel, as well as mentoring and modeling–all the things that make us parents and a vital and vibrant part of our society.


Back to Reality

     After two amazing weeks in Nazareth, my daughter and I returned to Delaware.  It was difficult to readjust-not just because of the jetlag but also because of the distance that separates us from people we love across the world. 


     Apart from being received back into “our” neighbor like long lost daughters, I had the privilege to go back and give time and energy to Bridging the Gap–the program that we started 10 years ago for returning Arabic families and their kids.  BTG was born to help kids bridge the gap from the West to the East.  All of their studies are taught in English with Hebrew and Arabic as foreign languages.  Many students also take advantage of the opportunity to receive a US diploma from Sycamore Tree School in California. 


     Our ten year reunion a few weeks ago, reminded me of the impact  we were able to make in the lives of many students a world away.  Parents told me that if not for BTG they may not have stayed on to make a life there.  It was the academic and social bridge that BTG provided that helped the students succeed and gave the parents hope and encouragement. 


     Now back in the States, I recommit myself to continue to help build the program there into the next decade.  In doing so, I am more committed to not only help my children run their race through the high school years and finish well but also to help other kids in their educational journey .


     I am keenly aware that so many students are out of touch with their own skills and strengths.  Many times we struggle with this as adults.  Yet we want our kids to do their best when they may not even know what that is.  So as I think of the families and students that we serve at Academic Connections, I want to help kids not only excel academically but also encourage them to come to a greater understanding of the potential and gifts; the strengths and the talents that lie within them. 


     It certainly is a process and as life-long learners we are always dicovering new things about ourselves and the world around us.  I’m looking forward to playing even a small part in that discovery knowing that what is unearthed will be well worth the effort.


PS I will ever be grateful to Bishop Riah Abu el Assal and his son, Hanna, the principal of Bishop Riah Educational Campus for helping birth and support BTG through the years and to Zinat Laham and the dedicated staff for taking it forward.  To learn more about the school and the BTG program visit: