Twenty-two (22) years ago, a Thursday night like today, that United Airlines flight landed at the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton, Wisconsin with a group international students (including me) among the passengers. I was that teenager who left my family for the first time in order to pursue a life-changing educational opportunity. On that day, my post high school learning journey began at Fox Valley Technical College. I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

Fast forward to a few years later, I went on to pursue additional levels of education at Marian University. Thus far in my life, my professional experiences and services have mainly been in education, business, and non-profit sectors. If you know me well, you know that I always seek and enjoy opportunities to learn new concepts and acquire new skills. Working in these fields has undoubtedly allowed me the opportunity to be pursue additional lifelong learning opportunities.

As I reflect tonight on my overall educational and professional journey, I am in the midst of preparing for an upcoming academic year full of uncertainties. I am an educational administrator, an instructor, a mentor, an advocate for students at both the college and high level, and more importantly I am a father of three children. More than ever before, I am reminded of the value and significance of education; particularly the pursuit of lifelong learning.

Our world is presently experiencing multiple unprecedented challenges as results of a very complex health crisis. This crisis has forced many of us around the world to approach life in different ways, to think differently, and to act differently.

Ealier this summer, my Marian teammates and I ran a virtual summer program for local high school students who are preparing to pursue a college education. I will never forget all the sleepless nights of late-March and early-April 2020 I spent trying to figure out what to do with the then upcoming summer program.

As the days were going by, it became clear that organizing a virtual summer program was the way to go. I remember announcing to my supervisor, back in early-April, that’s what we’re going to do – a virtual summer program. However, at the time of that announcement I still needed to learn a few things and figure out how to make it happen. Days later, I grudgingly announced to my colleagues that we have no choice but exploring a virtual summer program, given the circumstances we faced. Fortunately (for a lack of better term), I was not the only one facing the same situation. Hundreds of other educators running similar programs across the entire country faced similar dilemmas. Those of us who were connected with each other started sharing ideas and that gave me more confidence to move forward.

As I continued to discuss further with my teammates, more ideas started flowing. Additional collaborators and partners at the University as well as in the community shared ideas. Questions and inquiries from students and parents also generated more ideas.

Fast forward to July 31, 2020, my collaborators and I completed for the first time a virtual educational program for local high school students during the course of six weeks. Back in early March, we had no idea that’s what we were going to do. We were thinking traditionally; business as usual. Personally, when I looked at the final works and projects of the program participants (they did all that at home). I shed some tears of joy and I said to my collaborators that it was worth it.

Yesterday, I wore one of my wife’s t-shirts that says: NEVER GIVE UP. I don’t know that I have been thinking about this every day since the start of this crisis. There were days things were beyond rough. Looking back now, I guess I never really gave up.

The global health crisis had definitely deprived us of many things we loved doing. It has unquestionably caused long lasting stress, sorrow, pain, and grief. That list is obviously much longer. However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it has caused us to think differently and to act differently. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that it has caused us (perhaps forced us) to explore new possibilities, new frontiers.

My parents did not have the opportunity to reach the level of education my sibblings and I have attained in four different countries. However, they always managed to stress on the importance of not just attaining an education but also continuous learning.

I recently learned that each of my parents used their respective free times (during the pandemic) to learn new stuff via their smartphone and tablet. By the way, my mother can spend hours sharing what she has learned. (Lol) I firmly believe that she had unknowingly passed that gene on to my oldest son.

If you have read up to this point, know that I am sharing all of this to say that I am grateful for all my learning experiences from the two countries in which I have ever lived: Haiti and U.S.A. I feel very fortunate to work in educational settings and serve in organizations where heavy emphasis is put on lifelong learning.

I am continuing in my learning journey as a way to positively influence my own children’s future. At the same time, I am continuing that journey in order to learn of the best ways to adequately serve high school and college students as well as current and aspiring young professionals.

I welcome the opportunity to chat with any one who would like to exchange ideas on non-traditional learning experiences for students.

Lastly, for many years now, I have been wondering on the best ways to impact others who are far away from me on a regular basis. I think this crisis has given me some ideas to explore. There still are many young people who currently are where I was 22 years ago. The work that I do does not help me generate millions of dollars. However, it still strengthens my dream and hope – as a way to give back – to posively impact the lives a millions for as long as the Almighty allows the breath of life to remain in my body.

My name is #GarryMoise. I am a #LifeCultivator.

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