Paine College Saved My Life
By Deonte Moses
College was not an option for me, coming out of Mt. Hebron High school as a young man with a 1.25 grade point average who only knew how to shoot and dribble a basketball. My foster dad promised that he would allow me the opportunity to stay with him during my senior year of high school. I was currently in a situation where life in my mother's house was not the best. I had failed the 10th grade. I was suspended and dismissed from school more than 20 times, which placed me in a position where I had the lowest grade point average in the district of Howard County, MD. As I prayed for guidance and wisdom from a God that I believed in but did not know at the time, a pastor by the name of Luther B. Felder called my foster dad and asked him did he know of any United Methodist students who would be interested in attending college. Encouraged, yet realistic about the young man that he had living in his home, he responded, "Yes, I have a young man, however, he doesn't have good grades." Reverend Felder's response to my guardian changed my life in a way that it would never be the same, "Bring him anyway."
My guardian drove me to Paine College, with the dream and hope that I would find a way to make this opportunity work for me. Had I not seized the opportunity, I would have found myself in a situation where I would be destined for the street corners where I saw many of my friends arrested and shot. I did not want that for me so Paine College was the only hope that I had to make something of my life. I will never forget the day I walked into Reverend Felder's office, threw my hands in the air, and said, "Reverend, anything you ask me to do I will do it."
My current reality was that I probably would not live to see age 25 trying to survive the rough streets of West Baltimore, if I messed up this opportunity.
My first semester at Paine was a depressing one. For the first time in my life, I had taken school serious because I had to and became a scholar; however, the current coach was strict and never allowed me to have the opportunity to walk-on to the basketball team because of the kid that I was in high school. Therefore, I promised myself that as soon as I became eligible to play NCAA basketball, I would create a highlight film, reach out to other schools, and transfer because I knew I had the talent and was good enough to play on a college team. This is exactly what I did. I had made a 3.3 grade point average in that first year and got recruited by a school called Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA, where they promised me a prosperous career and a professional career overseas. However, as I attended Geneva that following Fall semester and got back out on the court something was missing. The love and encouragement that Paine College had given me to be successful as a young black man in America extended beyond anything that basketball could do for me at that phase in my life. The community and extended family that I had been given through Reverend Felder, Mrs. Jacqueline Connie, President Samuel Sullivan, Professor R. Wayne Woodson, Dr. Elias Etinge, and so many others who had poured into me and said, "Deonte Moses you can do it. It does not matter where you come from, or how you started, you are more than capable of becoming anything you put your mind to if you work for it."
These relationships had such a huge impact on me. The very thing that had defined me and the reason why I had dedicated my life towards change was no longer my identity because of Paine College. I quit the Geneva team in total shock to everyone that was a part of that program and returned to Paine College. Upon my return to Paine College and because of the level of belief they instilled in me, I decided to make a difference and encourage others to work hard and be the best versions of themselves that they could be.
On fire in my spirit with a dream to make a difference, I became an influential student on campus. I graduated from Paine College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with several accomplishments under my belt: I became a member of a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated, a two-term Student Government Association President, a starter and captain of the basketball team, the first student in the history of the college to lead a sports team and the Student Government in an academic year, and a ministerial intern in South Africa, Mozambique. I also founded a campus ministry that was created to grow freshmen and sophomores' relationships with God through my own journey and experiences that had gotten me to that point in my life.
Currently, I am going into my third year as a graduate student at Duke University-Divinity school and through my matriculation at Paine College, God could not be more real in all that He has allowed me to accomplish since I've been here. Since I arrived in Durham, NC, I became a lot of firsts: the first intern for student ministry in the history for Duke Chapel; the first African American intern for the University of North Carolina's Wesley Fellowship, and currently going into my second year with them; the first African-American resident and caretaker for University Methodist Church and through my role in ministry I have been called into activism, preached 13 sermons, led 5 protests fighting against racial injustices, founded my own non-profit organization, and hired to help another build community through the teaching of the gospel in low-income areas. With over 46,000 followers and supporters on social media, many are moved and inspired by my story. It is my desire that I will not be the last, that other students will also follow. Yes, God is real.
Paine College Took Me Where I Was
If Paine College had not taken a chance on me by helping and blessing me with the opportunity to try and make something of my life, none of these amazing things would have been possible. I would have been somewhere in West Baltimore standing on a street corner until someone killed me or the police took me to jail because that was all I knew.
I said it then, I will say it now, and I will preach and share this until the day I die, Paine College saved my life!
Without Paine College, so many students who are overlooked because of mistakes and human judgement would not have been given an opportunity to be something in this world. I love Paine College with all my heart and soul and I will forever be grateful and committed to the advancement of Paine College.
My plan upon completing my degree program at Duke is to move my non-profit back home to Baltimore, MD and make a huge difference in my communities by providing resources such as after school programs, a youth league initiative, neighborhood days, and teaching gospel. My goal is to run for a position of the Baltimore school of Education, build a positive reputation in government and politics, and run for a political office that will serve the people. Because of God's hand on my life through Paine College, all these things will come to pass for a young man who finished high school with the lowest GPA in the entire school and finished last in his class.