From homeless to graduation: Livingstone student defying the odds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2017

Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY — While other high school students were stressed about what to wear to school the next day, Precious Sidbury of Charlotte was confronted with a more pressing issue.

Where would she sleep at night? Would it be at a neighbor’s house? Or in a car?

Unlike her peers, she was homeless in high school. Her mother suffered a stroke and was out of work for a year, and they lost their home.

In order to offer some consistency in their living arrangements, Sidbury’s mother separated the family. Sidbury’s two brothers and sister went to live with her mother’s family while Sidbury, the youngest of the siblings, stayed with her best friend from high school.

Her mom continued to live in her car.

On Friday, Sidbury will graduate from Livingstone College with a bachelor’s degree in English.

How did she get from homelessness to college graduation? Through Livingstone College’s Bridge Program.

The Bridge Program is the brainchild of Livingstone President Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. The six-week summer program is designed to assist students make a successful transition from high school to college.

It is a student’s second chance at getting a college education and targets students who have college potential but who do not meet admissions requirements on GPA, core courses or ACT and SAT scores.

“I knew I always wanted to go to college but did not know financially how to pay for it,” Sidbury said.

So she decided to join the military.

One day, Livingstone College recruiters visited her school, South Mecklenburg High in Charlotte. She applied, and one week before the Bridge Program was to start, she changed her mind about the military and came to Livingstone.

“I came to college with one red suitcase, and that’s it. I had no school supplies, no shoes, no clothes and no food,” she said.

She was given a room at the Livingstone College Hotel, which is where the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management is housed, as that was her intended major at the time.

The room came fully furnished.

The next year, she became a resident assistant at the hotel and remained there the rest of her college years.

Sidbury said her math teacher at the time, Kenyatta Ridley, became her lunch buddy and mentor. She taught her how to drive and looked out for her on campus.

After getting her license in May, Sidbury purchased her first car — the first of her siblings to have one — and is working three jobs — really four. She works at Harris Teeter during the week, at Bojangles’ on weekends, as a tutor at the college’s Student Success Center and is a resident assistant.

She will be the first in her family to graduate Friday and will do so with a 3.7 GPA.

While cooking is a hobby, her passion is writing and speaking. She plans to teach locally and pursue her master’s degree in communications.

“I was just making it through high school. I knew I would be somebody, but didn’t know the steps to take,” Sidbury said. “My advice is to not let your situation validate what you can do and accomplish. I’ve learned you can always hit the switch to make life better.”

“Stories like that of Precious’ is why the Bridge Program was created,” said Jenkins. “Education is the surest vehicle for upward mobility. If you take this time seriously, you will have a much better life. I’m so proud of this program and want you all to live up to your potential.”