What a good education can do

Published 10:23 pm Monday, November 17, 2014

By Chris Quilpa

In celebration of American Education Week — Nov. 16-22 — I’d like to share with you my thoughts on education.

I was the first from my family of 11 children to earn a college degree in 1977. Studying from one public school to another, in elementary and high school, while working to earn a living, I managed to make good grades and graduated with honors, from among 700 graduating seniors.

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As a self-supporting student, I enrolled in and graduated from a private college. After college, and passing the board exam for teachers, I taught in private and public high schools, and also in college, while pursuing my graduate studies.

In 1983, I immigrated to the U.S. and, after working for two years in San Jose, Calif., joined the U.S. Navy and retired in 2005, after 20 years of honorable military service.

Here’s what I learned about education:

A good education liberates us from illiteracy, poverty, mediocrity, ignorance and intolerance. Equipped with necessary skills like speaking, reading, writing and arithmetic, one can earn a living and improve his economic condition. With further education and advanced skills, we become more tolerant and understanding in our dealings with fellow human beings.

A good education encourages us to excel, to succeed, to give and keep on giving without expecting anything in return. We’re driven to do our best when we’re challenged and inspired. We remain focused on our goals.

Education helps us aim to achieve and accomplish something that makes us and others feel better. We just don’t focus on ourselves anymore, but on others who will ultimately benefit from the good deeds we do.

A good education empowers us to be a good example for others. Using the educational skills we have, we inspire others to do the same. Through our examples, we become catalysts of change and reform in the lives of others, especially the young ones. They emulate what they see in us.

A good education can lead us to a successful life. Of course, we have varied perspectives of what success is. For me, success is not how much money I have but how I have made my life better for me and others.

To many, success is defined in terms of material wealth, power and prestige. To some, it may mean a long-time dream realized — having a college degree, a spouse, a decent house, a car and a family to cherish. To others, success means having accomplished so much that they devote their time to help alleviate the economic conditions of other people.

A good education can take us to foreign places and give us new experiences that change our lives forever. What we have learned from books, our teachers, the Internet and social media can motivate us to do more. That is, we become missionaries, adventurers, tourists, explorers, entertainers and so on.

With his knowledge, experiences, expertise and values, man’s life is enriched, thus, leading the way to his enlightenment and transformation.

That’s what a good education can do.

To all teachers, thank you for your commitment to education.

Chris Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.