Together, all things are possible

Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2011

After three years of high school Spanish, and being President of the Spanish Honor Society, I must admit that forty years later, I did not know what the words meant. That isn’t surprising since I can barely order in a Taco Bell Restaurant. However, I wasn’t surprised at their definition. “Yes, together, all things are possible”. Although the words ring with a truth in any language, it was the context of how they were being used and the person that was speaking them that made it so powerful.

Dr. Richard Carvajal was inaugurated as the fourth President of Bainbridge College this last Friday. While he has been on the job since January it apparently takes nine or ten months to get everyone important together to do all the things that need to be done to make him official. We met soon after his arrival but we both were having surgeries; me on my shoulder and him on his foot, which made visiting difficult.

In the meantime, my travel schedule and putting together a revamped newspaper combined with his trying to digest the many things going on at this fast growing institution made our visits still infrequent. The Post-Searchlight has done a great job of covering the arrival of Dr. Carvajal’s family to southwest Georgia and in articulating part of his vision. The counties surrounding Decatur County are not as identified with the college, but they are just as important to each other’s success.

Each year, hundreds of Seminole County residents attend one of the two Bainbridge College campuses. Early County is certainly benefiting from the campus in Blakely. Miller, like Seminole, has commuters as well as people attending in the county seats. You can’t underestimate what Bainbridge College means to Southwest Georgia. It is often the only path to further education for our young people. It is often the only way for a single parent or a working mom or dad to go back to school to learn a trade or work for a better existence.

Repeatedly, it is a path for those living in poverty to make their way to a different and better living. It is the second chance for those that made mistakes earlier in their lives and now struggle day to day to feed their families and pay their bills. I have known all of the three previous Presidents of this institution. Friday, I felt like I came to know President Carvajal. Good colleges can happen because of resources, timing, and just the need of the students in the community. Great colleges almost always happen because of great leadership, hopefully over time. I believe that Dr. Carvajal can provide that leadership for Bainbridge College going forward

It isn’t his advanced degrees that give me that hope. It is the fact that he overcame such diversity. He lived in poverty that most of us talk about but never really experience. He suffered through a broken home as a child. He experienced prejudice that can cripple a young person. Through it all, he kept his faith. Because of people that believed in him, he believed in himself. Along the way, he met his wife and they became partners in seeking out a better life together. Things that could tear lesser couples apart did not break their bond. Their journey together took them to several institutions around the country.

They landed in a particular place with problems far worse than anything Bainbridge College could ever imagine. Carvajal’s family was threatened. He chose vision and commitment over expediency and comfort. The result was a campus that was racked by drugs and gangs became one of the fastest-growing institutions in the country in three short years. “Si, si se puede”. Yes, together all things are possible. I have worked with people that are victims of poverty, hate and injustice in my life.

Poverty alone can prevent some from ever achieving the first step of their dream, if they even have one. Richard Carvajal, and his family, have walked a path that most of us can only talk about. They have felt and grown from the leadership and generosity of others that believed in them. The have held on, despite tough odds, to their dreams and now those dreams are coming true. I believe President Carvajal’s leadership skills, not to mention his character, have been forged in the fire of experience.

The challenges of his life are the same as those facing so many of the students today. Often, their first and often only chance at a better life begins at the institution Carvajal now presides over. Richard Carvajal gets “it.” He will make a great fit, but he can’t do it alone. As he lays out his ambitious new plans for Bainbridge College, just remember: “Si, si se puede”. Yes, together all things are possible.