Monchel Hollins was born into obstacles. From poverty, to being raised in a single-parent household in a rural small town, the pitfalls meant to distract her were plentiful. As a youth, she acted out and saw her life spiraling out of control. Young and married and already seeing a life of government assistance, Monchel changed her path and began an educational journey that led her to eventually earning her Master’s Degree before the age of 30. Education may have saved her life, but Monchel knows that even with all the sacrifices it’s all still worth it and that has been the game changer her life needed. Let’s learn more…
Paint a picture for our readers…Describe your THEN.
Wow! Oh my where do I begin. My “then” was a mess. I was born to into generational poverty to a single parent mother who decided to drop out of high school in the 12th grade. She became pregnant with my oldest brother. She didn’t learn from that she decided to have my sister three years later and then stopped with me at age 25 years. Sadly, my sister and I did the same. My sister had all three of her kids by age 25 and then so I did as well. I became pregnant with my first child by age 15 years old. So as you can see clearly that was a generational curse on my family. We were all on every type of federal assistance program existed.
I will never forget attending a Parents Circle class at the local health department with a nurse name Johnnie Mae Otis. She printed out a list of statistics that stated my fate. The statistics said that all teen moms’ children were more than likely to end up on Section 8 Housing which meant never buying a house. Our daughters are more likely to become pregnant. Our sons are more than likely to end up in prison. We wouldn’t have health insurance and more than likely to live in the projects. I became angry. I went home and started paying closer attention to my family. And it dawned on me that oh my God I’m poverty stricken. I started noticing everything and I began questioning my mom about my father and everything. In my most recent book, “Education Saved My Life” Chapter 2: Mama Are We Slaves captures the moment I decided my life would be different. I had no clue how hard it would be trying to escape poverty. I didn’t care how hard it would be I just knew my kids wouldn’t grow up like I did.
I have faced – quite honestly still facing- many hurdles, issues and hindrances on this journey from Poverty Street to Abundance Blvd.
The number one issue I faced was emotional family support. It absolutely LONEY and scary leaving your comfort zone seeking help to get out of your current circle of support. It’s so lonely. You don’t have anyone in your immediate circle to bounce ideas off. When you learn something new and you’re so excited to go back home and share what you’ve learned and all they can do is sit and look at you with this look of confusion. It’s like you’re speaking a foreign language. You can see the wrinkles in their forehead trying to fathom what you’re saying. And all you’re saying is that no you can’t claim my child on your taxes anymore because you figured out that you will need to prove that to the college when your child get ready to attend college.
The road to abundance Blvd is scary because you are discovery learning the entire journey and you don’t have any trusted mentors that can help you get there. So you are constantly turning down help along the way because the “poverty stricken mindset” tells you to never trust the enemy. The enemy is anyone that doesn’t look like you. That’s embedded into your DNA from the first day of school. “Don’t you tell anybody what goes on in my house” therefore you feel like an island on the road to success.
So, the two most consistent hindrances I would have to say my mother and my husband. They both did not support my goals one bit. Its weird they both hate each other but if they would really take a conscious effort to listen to one another they would see they are just alike. They both do not like school (learning) and they both are fearful of change.
Earlier in our marriage, my husband would make comments like, “all you do is stay hugged up with that computer,” Or he would make comments like, “you got all that student loan debt and making the less than me” or the one that really made me want to quit and give up on my dreams…” you’re not making any money with that business just stop wasting your time” I literally wanted to quit. But the drive and determination to help other poverty stricken students, especially teen moms, see my struggle and keep pushing forward. Don’t let anyone stop you from chasing your dreams. You must have the strength and endurance to ignore naysayers even the ones you love to push through. So if I would have listened to my husband I wouldn’t be sitting here today.
As far as my mother and how she was a hindrance, she simply didn’t understand how to support me with school. So instead of fussing with Tim and calling me during the busiest stressful times of my educational career, she would have understood that I was trying to study, change diapers, cook, clean, and more. But instead she added fire to the fuel.
So, my passion is to help first generational college students navigate the college system with my proven steps to success. My most popular workshop is the BlindersVision Program where I bring your future up close. We basically map out their life and how to be successful with the many distractions and hinderances.
Now tell us about your NOW.
I just turned 31 on October 8th! I’m still married to my high school sweetheart. I have three amazing kids Lyrica Adreanna 14 years old, Timothy Morgan (TJ) -7years old and Gavin Christopher -5 years old. I live in a small town called Leeds, Alabama. I start every morning with a scripture, meditation, exercise, and get kids ready for bus. Commute an hour to work and hour back just to make ends meet. My life is full of rushing, running off two to three calendars at a time.
I’m the owner of Hollins Educational Services it educational consulting company designed to assist parents and students with the necessary tools and skills to navigate the college system to decrease the amount of student loans. We provide parent and student college survival workshops, ACT Score Booster Virtual Courses. I was recently appointed Global Community Media Liaison and Publishing Coordinator for TDR International Brands in Atlanta, Ga. I’m a self-published author of a book called Education Saved My Life: Changing Your Mentality Zip Code from Poverty Street to Abundance Blvd. I’ve had to the opportunity to speak to a numerous schools, organizations, churches, and universities. I’ve been featured in Huffington Post, radio stations, Podcasts.
What did you learn?
Oh my, this is a great question. I would say I’ve learned three major lessons thus far in my journey.
1. Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do
I learned that dreams don’t work unless you do. It’s absolutely insane to think you can keep getting up in the morning doing the same you did yesterday and expect a different result. Nothing is going to change unless you add or take something away from the equation. For an example, you dreamed of restoring old cars fulltime but you’re stuck working at the Cable Company. You work from 11am-8pm. You wake up at exactly 10:30am to prepare for work. During your lunch break you eat lunch and joke with your co-workers. When you get off at 8:00pm you eat, watch three hours of TV, and go to sleep.
And this routine is a vicious cycle lasted for 9 years. Nothing changed about this situation until the man finally figured out he had to change something in order for him to get closer to his dream. One might say that he doesn’t have enough time or the money to do it. And this is where the work comes in to make your dreams come true. He does have time to build his dream he just doesn’t see it. Instead of sleeping until 10:30am he should wake up at 5am to read and research the car industry. Instead of eating lunch with his friends he should eat a fresh fruit snack and some water and maybe a sandwich in the van and use that hour to join a mechanic club and start networking with other people in the car industry. Instead of watching 3 hours of TV after work, he should find a local shop to work at to learn more about the trade.
How do I know this works? My husband did it right before my eyes. He complained day in and day out about his dead in job as a cable man. Until one day, I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I just flat out told him don’t say another word to me about your job unless you are going to do something about it. If you hate, then make the necessary changes and make it happen. Yes, I was angry. Yes, he didn’t listen right away. Let’s just say he finally listened after someone else told him but oh well he knows and I know I planted the seed!
2. Mentorship is Vital for Success.
Now, you are GRINDING toward the dream. Let me save you the stress and frustration. Please don’t be fooled you can’t do it alone. And honestly it’s crazy to keep failing the test over and over again instead of just removing pride and ask for directions. So the biggest lesson I‘ve learned to date is to surround myself with smarter, wiser, and honest mentors. God truly blessed me with several mentors along the way from marriage tips, parenting tips, and business tips. As a product of generational poverty, effective mentorship was hard to find.
Most successful people are so busy maintaining the wealth they don’t have time to literally spend the quality time with you to sit at their feet and hand feed you the wisdom so they put the knowledge in a book. I’ve learned the power in investing in myself by investing in knowledge so I have books everywhere!!! Knowledge isn’t free. So many people think they will learn all the ins and outs of a particular industry, skill, or process via internet and especially YOUTUBE.
But this is what they don’t realize. Yes you can learn the skills such as Trading, real estate, and as simple as braiding hair. But the real magic happens when you are taken behind the curtain and only a real mentor that’s survived the hurdles and obstacles can do that. So if there aren’t any real successful mentors in your hometown, you’re working 40 hours a week, have a family, and can’t physically meet up sit at the feet of your great mentors invest in yourself and purchase their books. I promise you it works. As an author, I left some real jewels in my book to help poverty stricken kids escape poverty with my proven steps to success.
3. The Breakthrough is Wrapped in Surrender.
And lastly, the most profound lesson I learned to date is the secret to success is in surrender. When I finally gave up and said enough is enough. I can not keep struggling like this anymore. I’m tired of financially struggling from all this student loan debt. When I finally realized there was nothing I could do without first admitting that we were drowning in debt, and then realizing we needed to make some changes to fix it, and then lastly, we needed assistance to do it.
What are your current struggles and work in progress moments?
My current struggles are balancing family, love, work, businesses, and budgets. I’m constantly trying to balance it all without dropping the ball. As soon as I think I’ve mastered one area another starts to slip.
We have a five-person family household. We have three kids, ALyrica Adreanna -15 years old, TJ- 7 years old, and Gavin-5 years old. We do not have any family support here in Leeds, AL so we must solely rely on each other for everything. Tim is currently working at the Spectrum Cable Company where he has been for the past 10 years without any advancement at all. He literally hates his job which adds the stress on their entire family. His hours are not conducive for the family either. His schedules changes constantly however he never get off earlier than 9:00pm. I work from 8:00am-5:00pm but I have an hour commute to work. We literally get about 2 hours of quality time with them therefore we are constantly playing catch up. Every minute of the day we are playing catch up.
Last summer was the first summer we had to leave the kids in the house for 12 hours straight because both of our work schedules required us to work. My daughter called me every other hour in tears because they were in a new area and the boys were such a handful. I cried in my office because I felt trapped. I felt this wasn’t fair to my daughter to take care of my kids as though they were hers. I wanted to quit and walk out however we weren’t in the financial place to do that. I’m currently in over $100,000 in student loan debt. I was so angry at the fact I did exactly what was expected of me. I went to college and that’s all I had to show for it was debt slavery and sucky work schedule. However, I couldn’t allow the debt to stop me from investing in myself and my family’s legacy.
So, I had to get creative and come up with a plan that would allow me to be available to my kids. I remember being a latch key kid. I felt myself making the same mistakes as my mother did. I was leaving the kids for the sake of the mighty dollar. I remember playing through my head what I promised myself when I was GRINDING away in school.
My goal was to never have to leave my kids for days at a time in the house for a job. I’ve vowed to be an intentional, attentive and available mother. So, I went home and start praying and asking God what could I do to start making extra money at home just in case I got fired because I needed to start making an exit plan from my current job.
And I googled what could I do with the qualifications and education I had. Oh my God the opportunities were endless. I just needed the courage to step out on faith and do it. So, I stopped goggling and started asking myself what was my purpose. What made me the happiest? What was my “Why” and I let that be my fuel. I knew I absolutely loved education. I knew exactly what education did for me. Education was my saving grace. Without an education I would have followed my mother’s footsteps. I would have clean houses for mere pennies. Work the local nursing home or the Chicken plant. There were only three options in my home town. I would have worked in the cafeteria with my aunt and my mother. I know without doubt I wouldn’t be sitting here completing an interview for featured spot in a magazine. I probably would be living on every type of governmental assistance.
I know you’re thinking to yourself, well if all education got you was student loan debt why should I go and get in debt. Getting an education opened up so many other doors for me. I didn’t have any family members that could give me a loan to start my businesses. I didn’t have the credit to get it either. So I had to get a career to earn the money and now I can start the businesses. Also, I didn’t have to pay anyone for business help because I know how to research the information for myself. I saved myself thousands of dollars by bootstrapping as much as I could for my businesses.
I basically taught myself the beginning stages of my businesses. Once I figured out as much as I could. I knew exactly what I needed from my mentor so that I didn’t get taken advantage of. There are so many scams and people charging for things you can do on your own; however, if you can’t read, and comprehend the information you will spend resources you don’t have. Because remember I was poverty stricken, that’s barely having enough for the basic living essentials so I wouldn’t have even been able to pay the person on a high school education salary. And I know so many people are going to make the comment. I know some people who do not have a college degree and they are doing great. I want you to ask them three questions…who left them some insurance money, lawsuit, military, lottery, crime, or family loan.
While you may be on the other side now, what were some missteps along the way that you would do differently to get to your end goal?
If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have been a teen mom or in a teen marriage. I would have stayed focused and enjoyed my youth. I’ve been in adult role since I was 15 years old. I would have continued school, went to college, and did it the right way because this is extremely stressful. It’s a constant fear that I won’t be able to provide for my three kids if I fail.
But since I decided to be disobedient and get pregnant and get married at 18 years old I’ve had to make the best of it and it’s been a true struggle.
If I had to do it all over again, I would tell someone I don’t know what I’m doing earlier instead of being prideful and get the assistance I needed.
What would you tell your THEN self now if you could?
I would tell Monchel…
1. Stop worrying so much about your mother she got this. She made this bed now she must lay in it. It’s not your fault you guys are struggling. It’s all a part of the plan. Just relax.
2. Don’t drop out of your honors courses you’re smart enough to handle it.
3. Find the smartest kids in your grade and spend as much time with them as you can. Learn from then. They are really the coolest kids in the school. It’s okay to smart.
4. Tell your mom to buy you the movie Tarzan. Watch it over and over until you figure out Tarzan survived after his parents were killed by the tiger. So, you will be okay without toxic family members. It’s okay to cut them off.
5. Read everything you get your hands on.
6. Smile More. Eat more greens, exercise more. Sleep more.
7. You are beautiful and worth so much more. I love you Monchel. I wish I would have know my value and worth and I would have allowed boys to mistreat me or use me.
I would tell my THEN self to slow down and enjoy the process. I would tell my THEN self to stop stressing on making a living and just live. It’s okay to rest. Get plenty of rest and walk more.
Then and Now : Short Stories of Recovery, Redemption and Renewed Life / A Connected Woman Magazine Feature
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