By LaTasha Baker
HAMMOND-Southeastern Louisiana University Alumni, Sandra Broussard, 64, began her journey in motherhood at the age of seven years old. Despite being denied an education during her childhood, multiple pregnancies, abusive relationships, divorced and a widower, Broussard defied the odds and pursued her dreams for education.
Broussard was the eldest of eight siblings. Her mother was a migrant farm worker, but suffered mental health problems. “I had to step in and help my mother,” said Broussard. “I cooked meals, cleaned the house, washed diapers, mixed baby formula and took care of my seven brothers.”
Broussard said that she loved school but was denied an education because her mother wanted her to work and help with the children. She had to drop out of high school during the 9th grade. “All I wanted to do was go to school, but mama said I didn’t need to finish school,” said Broussard.
At the age of 15, Broussard became pregnant with her first child. Broussard said she never stopped thinking about going back to school. Six months after the birth of her daughter, Broussard attended Job Corp for one year and earned her General Equivalency Diploma. She also earned a Data Entry and Receptionist certificate. Broussard received a job at the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Broussard said that her ultimate goal was to continue her education and go to college. She said she’d plan to go once her daughter was kindergarten age, but became pregnant with her second child. Broussard and the baby’s father married, but the marriage was annulled by her grandfather due to spousal abandonment. “I became a single parent again,” said Broussard. “But I still had to go on.” Broussard said that she vowed that as soon as her youngest child became kindergarten age, she was going to college. Shortly, thereafter, the third and fourth baby was conceived.
Broussard said she struggled to survive. “There was a time I had to stay in a battered women’s shelter for a while,” said Broussard. “But I was still determined to one day go college once my youngest child was old enough to go to kindergarten.”
Broussard finally got her chance and enrolled into Ventura College in California. “It felt so good,” said Broussard. She said that although she was still a single parent, she had a good job, a nice home, the children were all in school and now she was back in school. Sadly, her dreams of going to college came abruptly to a halt.
During Broussard’s spring semester in college, her 8-year-old son, Sean was diagnosed with an unknown virus that caused severe brain damage rendering him completely disabled. “My heart was torn apart and I didn’t know what to do,” said Broussard. “I had to take care of my son. I couldn’t keep my job and I had to withdraw from school.” said Broussard.
Broussard and her family moved back to Louisiana to place her son in a medical facility for treatment of his condition. She said after the doctors announced that there wasn’t much more that could be done to help him, she became so distraught that she left home and went back to California. “It became a very low time in my life,” said Broussard. “I had a mental break down leaving my children with my mother. I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. I just lost it.”
Broussard said she began to entertain suicidal thoughts and had committed to going through with it until she found out that she was carrying her youngest daughter. “It was the news of my pregnancy that shook me out of the state of mind I was in,” said Broussard. “I remembered that I had left my babies in Louisiana and that I needed to go back and take care of my children.”
Broussard said that she still had a desire to finish college. “I told myself that as soon as my youngest daughter was able to go to kindergarten, I’m going back to college,” said Broussard.
Broussard enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana University in the fall of 1989 while her eldest daughter was attending a college in Davenport. The other children were in junior high and high school and she continued to care for her disabled son.
Broussard said that she was determined to finish school and that her children would also succeed as well. “I wanted even my disabled son to go to school and reach his highest potential despite his disability,” said Broussard. “My mother did not value education but I wanted it for me and my children. Sean graduated with his certificate of completion at 23 years old.”
“Despite all the challenges, I made it,” said Broussard. Broussard earned her Bachelor’s degree and her Master’s degree in Social Work from Southeastern Louisiana University, graduating with Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude honors in 1991. Her eldest daughter Paula also earned an Associate’s degree in Business Management and Tourism in 1991 and will be graduating in December, 2017 with her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Human Resources.
Broussard said that her oldest son Zaid, served a total of 25 years in the U.S. National Guard and Army Reserved, earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Southeastern Louisiana University in 1999 and his Master’s degree in Health Studies in 2004. “My mom was always my role model that kept me pushing forward. I learned from her that no matter what the obstacles, I can’t let it get in the way,” said Zaid Rumadon.
Broussard’s daughter Abrille earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish, a minor in Psychology, a Master’s degree in English and 36 hours toward a PhD in Adult Education Leadership at Southeastern Louisiana University. “I admire that she never gave up on her dreams of completing her education no matter what her circumstances were and she did it all with high honors,” said Abrille Dixon. “There was no way we weren’t going to college because she led the way with her actions.”
Broussard’s youngest daughter, Sequoia earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting at Southeastern Louisiana University in 2005. “My mom’s life has a significant impact on my life today in so many ways. Because of her, I am who I am,” said Sequoia Keys. “For one, I probably would not have gone to college. School was not fun for me, but as I saw her and my siblings go. It was the thing to do and I’m glad I did.”
Broussard said that it was through prayer and her faith in the Word of God that has brought her through every challenge she has faced. “Nothing is an excuse for giving up,” said Broussard.