Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dream Fulfilled Part II: My Graduate School Experience

When I received my Bachelor's Degree from the University of South Florida four years ago, I felt like I was floating on cloud nine! I wrote an article titled "DreamFulfilled: The Necessity of Higher Education" and talked about my educational experience up to that point and expressed my sincere gratitude to the people who helped me get there. Here I am four years later, the proud new holder of a Master's Degree in Communication and Leadership from Park University. I am going to talk about my graduate school experience with the hope of inspiring people around me to pursue or continue pursuing their educational and life goals.

My journey towards a Master's Degree started in January of 2014. I took a few years off after finishing undergraduate school because I needed to devote time to taking care of some obligations for my military career. My time wearing the uniform will be coming to an end within the next five years or so and my deteriorating knee condition forced me to think about what I want to do once I retire from the Marine Corps. I wanted to make myself as marketable as possible when I make the transition from being on active duty to the civilian world and I believed completing this degree program would help with that process.

I knew I wanted to go to graduate school because that was a long term goal I set for myself when I started taking classes with Park University in 2007. That long term goal was now my new short term goal and I needed to get started before I spent too much time away from the academic world. I knew going in that this process wasn't going to be easy, but it was a process that I had to go through in order to get to my goal.

I had to study for and take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) to get into graduate school. The test itself was very difficult, but I scored well enough to be accepted. I think what helped me the most was my strong grades and credibility with Park University from my previous time with the school (2007-2010). I only took one class per semester because that's all the time I could afford to give. My obligations at home and at work were too great for me to do more than one class. I didn't want to stretch myself too thin by taking on a heavy class load and thankfully I didn't because one class at times felt like I was taking three or four.

I really enjoyed most of the classes I took, but there were some assignments/projects that really tested my patience and desire to complete the program. Anyone that has spent any time with me at all knows that academic excellence is not optional. I am not satisfied with making anything less than A's in school because I know I have the ability to do so if I put in the time and effort required. I managed to make straight A’s throughout graduate school, finishing with a 4.0 GPA. In the grand scheme of things, are employers going to ask me if I made all A's in grad school? Probably not, but just in case they do, I want my transcripts to have as many A's as possible and I was fortunate enough to achieve my goal. I've been called an over achiever more than once in my life, but I take it as a compliment and keep striving to be the best at everything I get involved in.

I feel obligated to succeed to prove that despite the obstacles life throws my way, with a combination of determination, a good work ethic, and making good decisions, I could beat the odds. Some might suggest that fear is a bad thing, but going through this program reinforced my approach to life in that I use the fear of failure as motivation. My fear of failure has driven me to be successful at everything I have attempted to do in life. I will not allow fear to stop me from doing things that can move me forward to achieve the goals I've set for myself. Simply put, I cannot afford to fail because there are too many people looking up to me and depending on me to succeed.

My fear of failure could be linked to growing up with very little money and wanting a better life for my family. I don't have fear in my heart because my parents were too critical of me, unsupportive, or routinely undermined or humiliated me in childhood. I did not experience a traumatic event at some point in my life where I performed poorly or fell apart when the pressure was on me to perform. My parents have been loving and supportive of me from the start, but they were also very demanding and ran a tight household. Part of what continues to drive me to succeed is the fact that I grew up seeing too many people struggling to earn a decent living and I decided early on in life that I needed to do something different.

With everything I have been blessed with up to this point in my life and going forward, I still have an obligation to never forget the people who are not as fortunate as I have been and extend my hand to them to assist them in achieving their goals and dreams. In the spirit of philanthropist W.E.B. Du Bois' Talented Tenth concept, I believe that leadership can arise from many levels and grassroots efforts on the part of people like myself can have a tremendous impact on the social change we want to see in communities all over the world. There are people all over the world who have suffered the most and have the least to lose that are depending on today's generation of leaders for our steadfast, dependable, and uncompromising leadership.

What's Next:
Considering one of my future goals is to become a college professor, this program presented a perfect opportunity for me to see how well prepared I am to transition from the Marine Corps to a college campus. Being a lifelong learner, I am going to continue reading as many books as I can. I have purchased many books periodically over the last couple of years, but never got the opportunity to read them because I just didn't have time. I did manage to squeeze in reading about 50 articles a day and that number will probably go up quite a bit now that I have a lot more free time on my hands.

At some point in the next five years or so, I do plan to pursue a doctoral degree, but right now I plan on taking a break from academia and enjoy spending my free time doing things I really enjoy doing. Speaking of free time, I'll be spending many, many hours on my back porch cooking meat. That's my happy place and something I really enjoy doing, so I am going to take full advantage of this time trying to perfect my craft on the grill and smoker.

My blog will be back in action after a two year hiatus. Keep your eyes open for some hard-hitting opinion pieces that will hopefully provoke thought and stimulate good dialogue amongst friends and colleagues.

Thank You:
I'd first like to thank my wife and kids for their tireless support during this process. Thank you so much for the support you provided on the many late nights, early mornings, and countless hours of sitting behind a computer reading, writing, and working on projects. I am driven to be excellent in everything I do because I am trying to set the right example for you to follow. You young ladies are the reason that failure is not an option for me. Thank you!

To my loving parents who always encouraged me, believed in me, and prayed for me, thank you. I have always tried to make my parents proud and this accomplishment is a testament to how well they raised me and the values they instilled in me. 
To the Marines who have worked and currently work with me, thank you. Thank all of you for your patience, tolerance, and understanding while doing my best to set the right example for you to emulate. My hope is that you've seen me go through the process and realize you too have the ability to exceed anything I have accomplished because you guys are a lot smarter than I am. The question is, do you have the drive it takes to get you to that point and beyond? Challenge issued!

To the three people I asked to write letters of recommendation for me when I applied to graduate school; Mr. Theodore Parrish, Ms. Jennifer Simpson, and Ms. Monique Smith. I made a promise to the three of you that if you put your good name on the line for me, I would come through for you and I did. I have reached out to the three of you for mentorship and guidance along the way and words cannot express how grateful I am to have people like you in my life.

Ted, you are like the big brother I never had. The things you've accomplished in your career helped inspire me to reach for the stars and I will be forever grateful for our friendship and brotherhood. We've had some long, involved conversations about life, business, and careers and you've never guided me wrong. I don't know if you realize how many people look up to you for being such a successful person in the investment world. What impresses me the most is that you have never forgotten where we came from and always represent Folkston, Georgia with the highest level of dignity and respect. You've set the bar high my friend and I look forward to continuing to be the kind of example young people want to follow and emulate.

Jennifer, we spent three of the most wonderful years of our lives together at the NROTC unit at USF. Even though you were my boss, it was our ability to work together as a team that helped us be as successful as we were. I wish you had stayed in the Corps a little bit longer because leaders like you are hard to find. Young Marines are thirsty to be around squared away Marines like yourself and I will always have very fond memories of the time we spent together as colleagues and friends.

Monique, we have been friends since middle school and I am thankful that our friendship has stood the test of circumstance, time, and distance. You set the example for me to follow and I'm sure I told you this many times before, but you continue to impress me. When you were named to the Jacksonville Business Journal's 40 Under 40 in 2014, I thought to myself, "I need to step my game up because my sister is leaving me in the dust!" I appreciate your passion for your job and for challenging me in your own way to succeed beyond our dreams.

To my NJZ Family in Tampa, thank you. You guys are the finest group of professional, highly successful men and women who took me under your wings and treated me like I was a family member. Our friendship means the world to me and I'm happy to have a good set of people like you in my life.

To my Kamp-8 crew in Okinawa, thank you. Fellas, every one of you supported me during this journey and gave me the encouragement I needed to get through some tough times. Its people like you guys that makes being a Marine one of the best jobs in the world. Now I'll have a little bit more time to smash some heads in dominoes, so stand by for the beatings!

To Mrs. Marie Hill at the MCAS Futenma Education Office, thank you. I cannot tell you how many times I came into your office after finishing a class and you treated me like I was the most important customer you'd talk to that day. Your smile and telling me to keep pushing to the end really made a difference.

To Dr. Lora Cohn and Dr. Mark Noe, thank you. You two were my primary professors in the program and I really appreciate all of the guidance you've given me along the way. I learned so much from you and how to conduct business in the classroom as a true professional. I hope to continue working with you in the near future if the opportunity presents itself for me to be a part of the Park faculty.

To all of my family and friends who have supported me in one way or another, thank you as well. I'll be the first to admit that I am not the smartest, sharpest, or brightest person in the world; but what I have been blessed with is a work ethic that helps me overcome all of my natural shortcomings. I tell people all the time, if you can invest time on social media, you can certainly invest time in yourself to go to school. Hopefully something I've said here helps someone realize that their dreams are reachable and achievable.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on May 11, 2016 via

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Vote, Vote, Vote

Now more than ever, we as Americans need to be actively involved in every election and getting as many people as you know registered to vote. Off year elections usually result in lower voter turnout than presidential election years, but the 2014 election is not the election you want to skip. The mid-term election of 2010 and some of the candidates who were elected that year is a very good example of what can happen when people don’t vote in large numbers.

Voting is so important that almost every commercial you’ll see over the next six months will be a negative political ad. Thanks to the Citizen’s United and McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court, candidates and their big money Political Action Groups are going to flood the airways trying to convince us to vote for a candidate of their liking and tell us why we shouldn’t vote for the other candidate. These bad decisions, along with the horrible decision by the Supreme Court to lift certain restrictions from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will do more damage to voting rights than the overt tactics of voter suppression and intimidation laws used in the Jim Crow South.

The attack on voting rights has reared its ugly head once again as we’ve seen bills being introduced and passed in states all over the country, making it harder and more difficult for people to vote. I’m not just talking about the new voter ID laws, but the subtler changes like closing the polls earlier, decreasing the amount of polling places (which lengthens the time people stand in line to vote), and shortening the number of early voting days (a direct attack on Sunday Souls to the Polls drives). People with huge chucks of money are being given free reign to influence the political process in America and basically buy their way into office, while it’s getting harder and harder for normal citizens to cast their ballots.

It is very important for each and every one of us to make sure that everyone we know, interact, and deal with are registered to vote. We have to be educated voters because the political elite and their cronies are depending on us to be low information voters. This explains why the approval rating for Congress is at an all time low, but incumbents continue to be re-elected. We have the power to hold our elected officials accountable and fire them when they aren’t doing the people’s business. It is definitely time for some of the sitting members of Congress to be given their walking papers because they are too far disconnected with the needs and desires of the people they are elected to serve.

I understand that some of you might be loyal to the Democratic Party, but really, what has the Democratic Party done for us lately? Those of you who are loyal to the Republican Party are in the same boat because more than likely, you are voting for candidates who don’t have your best interest in mind. I know this might not sit well with some of my friends on either side of the political spectrum, but it the truth. Don’t get married to a political party because then you'll start voting for the (D) or (R) that comes after a person’s name instead of voting for that person. Voting down party lines dumbs down the voter, and makes it easier to assume that a candidate is ok just because they are a Democrat or a Republican.

Forgive me for not having a lot of confidence in the Democratic Party and their failed promises during campaign season, only to see them get elected and forget about the issues of which they campaigned. The Republican Party continues to show through their legislative agenda and some of the most outrageous candidates they can find, that they do not give a damn about minorities, civil rights for the LGBT community, poor people, women’s rights to choose, non-Christian Americans, unemployed workers, or public school teachers. As one female radio talk show host asked, “have you seen the things Republicans want to stick in women?”

I’m not telling you which party to affiliate with, or who to support because I’m not in bed with either party. For the record, I am a non-Party affiliated voter. I purposely do not affiliate myself with either of the two major political parties in this country and for that, I can only vote in general elections.
My lack of trust in either of these parties to carry out the business of the nation is no reason for me or anyone else to throw in the towel and not vote. Too many people have given their lives and sacrificed a whole lot of blood and tears for every American to have the right vote in this country. To me, it is a slap in the face and an insult to those pioneers when we don’t take advantage of the power we have through our vote.

If you have not registered to vote yet, please do not wait until November to get registered. Act now and let your voice be heard through the ballot, or remain silent when the results of the election produce elected officials who care more about getting re-elected than governing. Do whatever it takes to get registered and help someone who might have trouble getting the necessary documentation to get registered to vote. Our lives are going to be affected in one way or another by the results of the upcoming elections, so be sure that your vote gets counted because each and every vote truly does matter.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on May 20, 2014 via

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Take the Challenge With Me

The recent arrest and conviction of an active member of the United States House of Representatives for cocaine possession forced me think about how flawed drug laws and their enforcement is in America. The most hypocritical part of this sad scenario is the fact that an elected official was using cocaine while at the same time supporting legislation to demand food stamp recipients submit to random drug tests in order to get benefits. This Politco article outlines what this sitting member of Congress voted to do for those Americans of are food stamp recipients.

There is not a doubt in my mind that if I got caught purchasing 3.5 grams of cocaine worth $250 from an undercover agent, there is no way in hell that my punishment would be a $250 fine and one year of probation, while getting to keep my job. If someone who looks like me got caught with something that looks like drug paraphernalia, the same benefit of the doubt would not be given. No favoritism or back door deals, or slaps on the wrist for the average Joe, but a sitting member of Congress gets to blame his cocaine use on alcohol abuse and keep representing the people of Florida like nothing ever happened. Imagine if you can for a moment, that your neighbor or co-worker was arrested for cocaine possession, and got to keep their job. Taking a leave of absence is unacceptable and calling a press conference after 10 pm is not what I call would accountability. His actions should force legislation that would require every elected official to submit to random drug tests because after all; they are government employees who are being paid with tax-payer dollars. If drug tests are good for food stamp and welfare recipients, they should also be good for those voting in favor of these requirements.

I am sympathetic towards people who have drug and alcohol addiction, but I have very little compassion for people like this Congressman who has spent their careers victimizing and demonizing their fellow citizen. I wonder if the Tea Party is going to cancel his membership because of his hypocrisy? I wonder if the same people on right wing talk radio and the news channel that claims to be “fair and balanced” will call for their Tea Party brother to step down like they did when a sitting Congressman sent pictures of his “package” all over the internet.  Of course they won’t because all of that Tea Party, patriotic, family values, limited government, conservative mumbo jumbo rhetoric is nothing more than propoghanda. 

Did he have ulterior motives when he cosponsored H.R. 1695, which would give judges more flexibility on sentencing in cases involving mandatory minimums? While I support abolishing mandatory sentencing, sitting members of Congress who are voting to change laws should not be doing so under the influence of cocaine. I’m sure there are many of you out there who know someone who has been arrested, or is currently serving time behind bars for drug possession. What kind of message does this slap on the wrist send to people currently serving time for committing similar or less harsh crimes? The statistics prove that there is a huge disparity the in sentencing laws that are harsher on crack users than cocaine users and a person’s ethnicity has everything to do with it.

Take the Challenge:
Will you stand with me and reach out to these young people by sending them this letter along with one of following three books for them to read? 1. This Isis Paper; The Keys to the Colors by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing. 2. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Melissa Alexander. 3. Letters to an Incarcerated Brother by Hill Harper. As they return to society, they need to know we have not given up on them and we want them to be productive members of society and our community. I have drafted an example of a short letter intended for young men and women who are currently incarcerated. Feel free to copy or modify it as you see fit.

“Dear Young Brother or Sister,
You might not know who I am and I might not know who you are, but I want you to know that there are people out here who still love and care about your physical and mental health while you are incarcerated.  Not all of us have given up on you and when the time comes for you to make the transition back to life outside the walls of jail or prison, I hope and pray that something you read in one of these books will encourage you to help another brother or sister avoid going down the wrong path.  This Isis Paper; The Keys to the Colors by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Melissa Alexander, or Letters to an Incarcerated Brother by Hill Harper are examples of books filled with educational information that will force you to think about some of the following things:

1.  Why respecting your fellow man is important.
2.  Breaks down the system of racism, white supremacy.
3.  Explores the hidden meanings of terminology and symbols. 
4.  Helps you understand who are you as an African American?
5.  Why the system wants you to remain incarcerated.

Please accept this book as a seed from me to you and I pray that you will allow the words to inspire you to be a better man or woman, better husbands and wives to your spouse, and better parents to your children.  I have no doubt that this book will be a blessing to your mind, body, & soul. 

God Bless,

Your Name”

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on November 21, 2013 via

Monday, August 5, 2013

Need Scholarship Money?

A few weeks ago I decided to apply for graduate school and during the process, I quickly realized the cost per credit hour for each class is somewhat higher than undergraduate classes. Fortunately for me, the Military Tuition Assistance Program covered 100% of the cost for my two undergraduate degrees, up to $4,500 per year. The program will also cover up to $250 per credit hour for graduate level classes, up to $4,500 per year.

At the university I chose to attend for graduate school, tuition per credit hour for undergraduate students is $350 per credit hour (approx $1,050 per class) for regular students and $240 per credit hours for Active Duty Military students. Tuition per credit hour for graduate students is $480 per credit hour (approx $1,440 per class) for regular students and $385 per credit hour for Active Duty Military students.

That leaves about $135 per credit hour I will need to pay out of pocket, but there are a number of scholarships that are accessible to people just like me that could offset these costs!

I am going to share some information about scholarship opportunities that are available to people all over the world. These scholarships are out there, but no one is going to knock on our doors and ask if we would like to have one. There are a number of companies and organizations that have donated monies for academic scholarships but unfortunately, a great deal of this money is being returned because of a lack of interest or applications.

Most scholarships require written essays, letters of recommendation, and copies of your transcripts (either high school or college). Others are need-based scholarships, where you are required to provide proof of income. Some of the applications can be filled out totally online, while others ask you to mail in the application. Some of the scholarships target specific degree seeking students, while others are based on gender, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. 

I slept on a lot of these scholarship opportunities during my undergraduate studies because I had the Military Tuition Assistance Program. When my $4,500 yearly allocation dried up, I was applying for scholarships left and right. For every 20 scholarships I applied for, 18 or 19 went to other students.

I would not be honest if I told you that discouragement did not creep into my spirit from time and time, but I kept applying. I did get tired of writing essays and asking people to write letters of recommendation on my behalf, but I kept applying. You are going to have to read through a lot of material and sift through scholarships that are not applicable to your particular situation. Time, effort, patience, and persistence are mandatory in this endeavor.

Regardless to how many scholarships you do not win, keep applying!

Please pass this information on to your family members, nieces, nephews, and friends with college-aged children. For those of you without a college-aged child at home, share this with someone who does. If you have children, take the initiative to get them involved and invested in their own futures. There is no need for money to be returned to donating companies because we fail to apply. 

If you are a college student or getting ready to become one, you already know how useful additional money can be. Below are a few links to many websites where scholarship information can be found.

*If clicking on the link doesn't work, copy and paste the URL in your web browser.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

Finaid: The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid & Scholarships


Student Inventors Scholarships

Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation

Ron Brown Scholar Program

United Negro College Fund

SIT Study Abroad Scholarships

Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Ronald McDonald House Charities U.S. Scholarships

Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Award

The Sallie Mae Fund Search for Scholarships

Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation

American Geosciences Institute

American Physical Society Minority Scholarship

Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition

National Association of Colored Women’s Club, Hallie Q. Brown Scholarship

National Black Nurses Association Scholarship Program

Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Xerox Scholarships for Students

National Assoc. Of Black Journalists Scholarships

Microsoft Scholarship Program

The American Political Science Association

Guaranteed Scholarships

Jacki Tuckfield Memorial Graduate Business Scholarship 

Burger King Scholarship Program

Siemens Westinghouse Competition

GE Funds LULAC Scholarship Program

Union Sponsored Scholarships And Aid

SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute

Graduate Fellowships For Minorities Nationwide

Rhodes Scholarships At Oxford

The Roothbert Scholarship Fund

Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps

Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Scholarship Program

Frederick C. Branch Marine Corps Leadership Scholarship

Army Reserve Officer Training Corps

Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on August 5, 2013 via