By Parker Ward
While the other mothers talked among themselves between plays at their children’s baseball games, future state Rep. Cindy Burkett had her head buried in a book.
She was taking night classes at Eastfield while working full-time because she was ineligible to get a promotion or another job without graduating college.
“I got married young” Burkett said. Because of that, I didn’t go to college right out of high school. Many times in my working career, I had been told I couldn’t be considered for a promotion or another job because I didn’t have a degree.”
Burkett spoke at the college April 4 as part of the Student Government Association’s Distinguished Speaker series.
After eight years of enrollment between Eastfield College and the University of Texas at Arlington, she earned an associate degree before graduating with her bachelor’s in political science in 2004.
Six years later, she was attempting her next challenge with some encouragement from friends: running for the House of Representatives in Texas.
While campaigning, she approached a house where an elderly man opened the door and told her that a woman’s place was at home taking care of her children.
“You know what, my kids are grown,” Burkett said to the man. “As a mom, I’m going to turn my efforts to assure that there is a future for them in the state of Texas.”
Growing up, her father was an abusive alcoholic and her two brothers suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, respectively, she said.
She found comfort and stability in the youth group at her local church.
“As an adult now, I look back and realize that my life could have gone a different way if not for those friends and the time invested by those adults into the youth program,” Burkett said.
Her story resonated with some students attending the event.
“I’m married and have kids and have been putting off school for a long time,” business major Esmeralda Meraz said. “The way she expressed herself to me really motivates me.”
Burkett emphasized the need for students to complete their degree plans and open up more jobs for themselves.
“It used to be that having a college degree in this country set you apart,” she said. “Now there are more educated individuals entering the workforce than ever before.”
After hearing Burkett speak, business major Sandra Umanzor-Moreno believes there is nothing in her way of getting a degree.
“If she did it, there’s nothing to stop any of us from doing it,” Umanzor-Moreno said.
To Burkett, it does not matter how long it took to get her degree. What mattered was that she had earned it.
“If it had taken me 10 years, I would have been 40 anyway,” she said. “Don’t ever let yourself stop.”