Story by Shaina Kambo, reporter
Photo Courtesy of Deborah Cannon, Austin American-Statesman
ACC District Trustee and businesswoman Gigi Edwards Bryant, who grew up in the Texas foster care system, began her post-secondary education at ACC in 1977. Bryant recently discussed her journey to success with Accent.
ACCENT: What was your childhood like?
BRYANT: My childhood before I was six was very good, but when I was six, I entered the foster care system. There was abuse and mistreatment. It was an old system, and the checks and balances that they have today were not there for children. I aged out at age eighteen with my daughter. My experiences taught me to be more caring about people, that it’s the little things that make a difference, and that one individual can change the world.
ACCENT: Who encouraged you on your journey to achievement?
BRYANT: My Big Mama (great-grandmother) told me that I could do anything and that God would protect me.
ACCENT: Has your definition of success changed throughout your life?
BRYANT: Success has to be defined by the individual, and everyone has to realize their own potential. Some days in my life, success was just getting out of bed. Some days, success was helping somebody to do the things that they wanted to do. Some days, success was knowing that I had done a good job and that I could take a nap.
ACCENT: What was it like being a student at ACC in 1977?
BRYANT: It was fabulous: small classrooms, professors and individuals who looked for you when you weren’t there. When I was going to ACC there were so many [moments when] I thought I was going to drop out. I just didn’t think that I could do it all: take care of my kids, pay my bills, go to work. It started out tough, but I stuck to it until it improved; I didn’t want to opt out.
ACCENT: How did your ACC education help you to achieve your goals?
BRYANT: It gave me an opportunity to realize that I could achieve an education at a pace that was successful to me.
ACCENT: What improvements at ACC would help students reach their full potential?
BRYANT: I want to see our graduation rate go up. I want to see our involvement in high schools be more concerted. I want us to put ACC in the minds of those students and [help them to realize] that we are a very good option. On the other side, I want to hear our students talk about the experiences they’ve had at ACC — the positives and the negatives — and then come back and help us do a better job.
ACCENT: What are some of the goals that you have for the future?
BRYANT: I want to leave a legacy behind about education and I want it to be empowering for the next generation. I want to make sure that I do something every day that leads the next generation to know that they can do it.
ACCENT: Is there any advice that you can give regarding perseverance?
BRYANT: Perseverance is a step-by-step journey. [Within] anybody that you encounter, there is a story. I want to encourage people to tell their own story. Tell [it] the way it happened to you. If it’s validation that you need, you may not get it, but keep telling your story because that’s where your strength is going to come from.