Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair…. But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on.
Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son” resonated with 10-year-old Catherine Green. Raised by a single mom, she had already dealt with trauma. But she never imagined one day she’d show her own children how to keep climbing.
Green dreamed big from the time she was little. First, there was ballerina. Then pediatrician. Then missionary. The dreaming stopped at 17 when she saw two pink lines on a pregnancy test. A year later, she went from a sheltered teen to a young mom dropping out of high school and moving into a government apartment.
Although no one in her immediate family had attended college, a great-aunt saw her
ambition: “Catherine wants to go somewhere. God has plans for her life.”
That was the encouragement Green needed. She completed her high school diploma and
had a university application ready to go when she found out she was pregnant again.
For a season, the 21-year-old dropped off her two kids with her mom while she juggled
work and college classes, but it was too much.
“It was a hard thing to decide at a young age to put off school,” she said. “I made a decision when my kids were young that once they were off to college I would return.”
Over the years, Green worked in everything from nursing home care to air conditioning. Even while making only $6.25 an hour and living in public housing, she ensured her kids got to school and finished their homework before dinner.
“My mom is an amazing, strong woman, and she raised a strong woman,” she said.
From her teen years, Green struggled with depression. Instead of turning to therapists or psychiatrists — not the standard in her culture — she found strength in God. Because of her experiences, she enjoys ministering to homeless people and encouraging everyone, like a “big sister,” to take the right path.
One day a light bulb turned on. What if she became a business consultant? She could not only help people in the projects bring their business ideas to life but also create a non-profit connecting homeless youth to basic resources.
“I don’t just want to feed the poor,” she said. “I want to give them the tools not to fall backward.”
By this time, Green’s daughter and son were both attending universities. It was time to fulfill her personal promise. In fall 2021, she enrolled in San Jacinto College's associate degree business program. Despite picking up many skills throughout the years, she hungered to learn more in the classroom.
“The best decision I have made was to return to school,” she said. “No matter how hard it gets, I persuade myself to get back in there.”
Challenges? Yes. Without a car, she takes Uber to get to classes. She studies harder now to retain knowledge. She also has to muster confidence to believe professors who praise her writing. But there have been rewards too — like receiving the John H. Sr. and A. Rose Moon Endowed Scholarship through the San Jacinto College Foundation.
The best decision I have made was to return to school. No matter how hard it gets, I persuade myself to get back in there.
“I’m honored and indebted,” she said. “I don’t take it lightly and pay it forward through words of encouragement to others.”
In May 2024, Green will graduate, then transfer to a university business administration program. Over the last 20 years, she has experienced her share of “splinters and boards torn up.” Instead of waiting for crystal stairs, she kept climbing. If you have a dream, don’t sit down, she says.
“Five years is going to turn into 10 years,” she said. “My five years turned into two decades. Do it now.”
Check out more stories from the Chancellor's Report to the Community.