written by Deidra Simmons
Southern New Hampshire University
In 2008, I was like most young people in their early to mid-twenties. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. I was working in an office job that I did not really like and knew that I did not want to be stuck there. I decided to go back to school and I have gone every semester since until now. My first experience with college, right after high school, had not gone well. I had not anticipated the freedom that came with college and unfortunately my performance was poor. I decided that I would remedy that as an adult. I applied at a local community college, Coastline Community College. Then I met with an academic advisor to discuss my path. She asked me, “What do you want to do in the future?”
That dreaded question. I had no idea what I wanted to do! She mentioned Anthropology. That sounded interesting and since they did not have an actual Anthropology degree, I began working on my Social and Behavioral Science degree. I took many courses to obtain that degree, some of which were history courses. One of my first history professors was William Diaz-Brown. I was born and raised in California before moving to Texas so during his class, Mr. Diaz-Brown would ask us to take field trips to local historical sites. As a child, I had learned about the Donner Party and it absolutely fascinated me more than anything else I learned. We used to play The Oregon Trail game in the mac lab in elementary school too. That is where my love and passion for history emerged. This is also when I changed my major to History and minored in Anthropology. I went to places like Fort Tejon and historical homes. I loved exploring these historical sites. I loved putting my feet where our past had their feet. I loved putting my hands on the walls and artifacts left behind by our past. There is something so incredibly moving about the experience. I have carried these experiences and the desire to explore with me to Texas. My husband laughs because any time we have a weekend day off together, I like to road trip to a historical site or town to explore.
During the last nine years, I have been able to go to places such as James Fort Colony in Virginia, the National Cemetery in Washington D.C., the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, several other missions in both California and Texas, and countless history museums in California, Texas, and Virginia. I have visited historical homes and locations, I have absorbed as much as I could. My dream is to explore European historical locations next!
Mr. Diaz-Brown and I still communicate via email. He is very proud of my accomplishments thus far and continually encourages me to chase my passion. I admire and respect him tremendously. I am grateful that he helped me find my passion and chase my dreams. I have had many other history teachers along the way that have pushed me forward.
I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best history professors across the country and each of them have continued to inspire my journey. For my History BS degree, I was required to write a capstone paper. I struggled with a topic that I could write a forty-something page paper about for months. Again, one of my hero professors swooped in and helped me get my thoughts in order. I decided to write about women of the Holocaust.
That paper was a game changer for me. Not only did it fuel a deeper desire to learn even more but it stoked an entirely new fascination for me. I wanted to be the voice for these women. Sharing their horrific story to the world and hoping that their experiences would not ever be forgotten. If the world did not truly understand the horror these women, men and children suffered, then we could be destined to repeat these mistakes. As I watch the world today, I see the past happening again. It just seems that we are trying to forget the past, forget where we came from and are destined to make the same mistakes again without regard to others around us. I would love to be a voice for History. I would love to inspire children to develop a passion for history and to foster respect for the field.