Teachers often tell their students that your past does not define your future, but one teacher at Leesville has actually learned that lesson to be true.
Ms. Mayfield, a math teacher at Leesville Road High School, grew up beneath the poverty line. Until she was two months old, there was no electricity in the home shared with her mother and her grandmother.
When her mother became pregnant at 19, her father returned to his home in Saudi Arabia to care for his dying father. Mayfield’s mother was left with only her mother (Mayfield’s grandmother) to raise a child in a home with no electricity at the young age of 20.
Mayfield did everything she could while growing up to hide her background. She was embarrassed that she grew up on welfare and food stamps and did not want her peers to know these secrets about her.
In the eighth grade, a friend told her that colleges looked at your grades from eighth grade and not just high school. Mayfield abandoned her old habits of getting D’s and F’s and proceeded to excel in academics for the rest of middle school and through two years of high school.
In her sophomore year of high school, she applied to the North Carolina School of Science in Mathematics (NCSSM), a school her mother had never heard of. “My mom was the kind of person who liked to make sure she looked good in front of other people, so my applying and being accepted to NCSSM was something she could brag about to her friends.”
Mayfield found ways to afford the necessities through jobs she held after school and donations from friends and family. “At church there was a man who always rode this big noisy motorcycle to church every Sunday; he was our stand-in preacher. Every time he saw me he would give me about $40, because he knew my situation and had known me since I was little.”
As a money-conscious student, Mayfield accepted only grants and never took out student loans. She was also awarded the prestigious Teaching Fellows Scholarship. When filling out her application for FAFSA, Mayfield was grateful for her background. “Because of the way I grew up, I ended up getting a lot of money from FAFSA… so glad we were poor for once”!
“I’m very thankful for the help the government provides, and it disappoints me that people sometimes take advantage of kindness due to laziness”, said Mayfield.
During her last two years of high school she spent much of her time working a part time job at Burger King. Mayfield later graduated from college with no debt and only owed the state of North Carolina four years of teaching. All through her college days, she continued work at Burger King and picked up a waitressing job 40-50 hours a week.
To this day, Mayfield has not missed a day of teaching at Leesville. She is still in touch with her mother, who now holds a steady job at the Change Center, a mental health facility. In her earlier days at Leesville, she received an e-mail from her father trying to get in touch with her. “He tracked down my e-mail through the WCPSS e-mail server. No apologies, just wondering how I was doing” said Mayfield.
Her story, unfortunate though it may be, is an inspiration to any person no matter their background. Mayfield’s perseverance through her life’s struggles shows that anything is possible if you are willing to work through the obstacles life puts in your way.