by Neree-Aron Sando
Some people are cut out for the banking business.
Lillian Allen wasn’t one of them.
She started college 10 years ago, but never finished. Instead, she spent a decade working in banking to support her son, who is now 13, and to take care of her mother, all the while dreaming of working in the music industry.
“My mother always prided herself on education and being the best,” Allen said. “She was valedictorian and graduated with the highest honor from high school and medical school (she was a registered nurse), and she wanted me to succeed in everything I do especially my education.”
Her mother made her promise to go back to college since Allen had dropped out of college to care for her newborn son 10 years ago. Two weeks before Allen’s classes began, her mother died.
“Her dying wishes were for me to finish school,” Allen said. “I had a full scholarship to a prestigious college and I had to drop out. As of last week I am no longer a dropout, and my promise to my mother is fulfilled.”
“Triumph over tragedy” became Allen’s motto.
On May 17, the 31-year-old North Philadelphia resident graduated with her associate’s degree in digital audio production and has been offered a full-time job as promotions director for a radio station in Allentown.
Allen found Montgomery County Community College’s Digital Audio Production program very attractive, and the financial aid didn’t hurt.
“I did get a Pell grant, a PHEAA state grant, and I was in the KEYS program, which paid for one of my classes and books,” Allen said. KEYS (Keystone Education Yields Success) is a state-funded program that helps single parents pay for costs associated with education, including tuition, transportation, childcare and books.
“Affordable tuition at [the College] enabled me to continue my education with ease. Although everything was hard, getting college funding was the easiest part thanks to President Obama,” Allen said. “It was much easier than when I started college in New York 10 years ago.”
At Montgomery County Community College, Allen participated in Montco Radio, the International Festival, Battle of the Bands, Music Wednesdays and Hip Hop Beat Battles.
“The hands-on opportunities within my field of study, the personal relationships with teachers and professors, accessible resources and the fact that one can perfect his or her craft and learn at the same time at MCCC” are the most important experiences Allen had at the College, she said.
Now that she has her degree and kept her promise to her late mother, Allen is free to take on the challenges of her new job as director of promotions at an Internet radio station. She anticipates transferring to another station in Atlanta, Ga., and later to a music label such as Atlantic Records or Def Jam South, she said.
“My mother was my best friend, my hero and my rock,” Allen said, “She had a huge music collection of vinyl albums and CDs that she listened to daily, so music is a very big part of my life and why I pursued a career in it is due to her.”
Allen has a second motto, which she shared with fellow KEYS Program students at a banquet before graduation. “I’m a goer,” she said. “What does that mean? [It means] I go!”