Commencement Spotlight: Star Brown
May 8, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
Each semester, the Commencement Spotlight series highlights graduating Bearkats with a “can-do” spirit through challenge and service.
Watervliet, New York
Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education and History
People often say that when life gets you down, you can either stay down or get back up and start again; upcoming graduate Star Brown believes you should come up swinging.
Brown made her way to Texas after her attempts to escape her abusive ex-husband failed in Indiana and New Hampshire. While on the run, Brown made sacrifices like barely eating for a week to ensure her three children were fed.
“Pretty much every horrible made-for-TV movie you’ve ever seen on the subject, I lived it for about four years,” Brown said. “I’m not sorry for what happened to me because I survived. I am not a victim, I’m a survivor and now I’m an advocate.”
As a survivor and now a resident teacher at Cleveland ISD, Brown advocates for her students and lets them know that they are not alone when life beats them down and leaves them broken. She provides her students with support that she knows is rarely received and aims to lift them up as others have done for her.
One such person is her husband, William, who brought his eight children to create their large, happy, blended family.
“We have 11 kids between the two of us and that makes things exciting,” Brown said. “I landed in Texas, and I was going to Lone Star for my automotive service degree and then William and I decided that I wasn’t going to be turning wrenches for the rest of my life and that I was actually going to go for my dreams.”
Brown has dreamt of working as a teacher since she was six years old and was later inspired to teach American history after her eighth grade social studies teacher showed her that history can be fun. To this day, she remembers him showing up to class dressed as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other founding fathers, and the time when he arranged a civil war reenactment to be held on campus.
To be a great teacher as he was, Brown knew that she had to find a school that would allow a mother of 11 in her 30s to thrive.
“I started looking at four-year schools and, in my opinion, Sam Houston State University had the best education program for me,” Brown said. “I checked out the University of Houston, Stephen F. Austin University and Sam Houston had the program that best fit my life because my life is chaotic, and it worked out best for me.”
She said that being close to her 40s and doing coursework with education majors who are just entering their 20s made some things awkward, but Brown reached across the age gap and helped them navigate tricky life situations she is all too familiar with.
“I feel like I was able to help a lot of my classmates because I have more life experience, I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime, I’ve been homeless, I’ve slept in a city park,” Brown said. “I’ve scraped and clawed to dig myself out of it and I think that gives me a different perspective than a lot of the younger kids, so I’ve been able to help them a lot with school.”
During her residency, Brown started doing what she was called to do and uplifts the children she encounters. To her, one of the things that has helped her be successful with the children is the relationships she has built with them based on trust and transparency. They have seen her strength as she stands between them and frustrated administrators and her vulnerability since the loss of her son in October of last year.
“My kiddos wanted to know where I had been, they left for fall break and came back but I didn’t, and my kids got to see me very, very, vulnerable,” Brown said. “I told them I lost my son. I looked at every single one of them and said I struggle every day to find a reason to get up in the morning. I struggled to find a reason to put my feet on the floor, but each and every one of you are my reasons to get up.”
Brown’s junior year was a time of struggle and loss. Her scholarships were running out and she feared she would not have the financial ability to wrap up the degree she fought so hard to earn, but her efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed. Professors and Stacey Edmonson, the dean of the College of Education knew she had an impressive resume as a member of the Elliot T. Bowers Honors College, Phi Alpha Theta historical honor society, Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society and the Student Alumni Association.
Knowing this, they recommended she apply for the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers, a highly selective scholarship for education majors. After much encouragement, Brown applied and was blown away as she advanced through each step of the scholarship screening and wept with joy when she learned she received the award.
“I cried because, at that point, I had been looking at my financial aid and all of my financial resources and it did not look like I was going to be able to finish my senior year,” Brown said. “And, oh my gosh, the Charles Butt Scholarship made it so that I could finish, between that and the several other scholarships that I have, including ones I didn’t even apply for. I’ve had professors put me in for scholarships that I had no idea were even available and because of that I did not pay a dime out of pocket or take out a single loan for my senior year.”
As Brown receives her diploma, she’ll know that she was able to get there through the support of her found family, from her own children to her husband and his kids, her classmates, her professors and her students. She said she will miss those she met on campus and the opportunities to meet people that studying at SHSU provided her with but is excited to continue teaching her students so that they can persevere and achieve their dreams just as she has.
“I show my kids all the time, if you work hard enough and you want it bad enough, anything is achievable,” Brown said. “Set your goals, push yourself every day and it doesn’t matter if it’s baby steps or giant leaps, as long as you are moving forward.”
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