by Neree Aron-Sando
It’s a basic law of the universe: A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Adam Gaston, 29, spent the last 11 years in a downward spiral. A few years ago, he managed to reverse that motion, keep it moving, and change his life.
Gaston, of Hatboro, is a Mathematics major in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Program student at Montgomery County Community College.
“This entire chapter of my life at this school has been the important experience. The knowledge I’ve gained, the self-confidence that’s returned, the people I’ve met have restored my hope for a future. It’s awesome,” Gaston said.
“Life was a constant struggle growing up. My father passed away when I was two, so my mother was constantly burdened with raising my sister and me alone. We were always on the edge of poverty,” Gaston said.
“In Houston, I began 11th grade, got my first job, and started adjusting to inner city life. Not four months after moving there, my mom decided to move us up here to the Philly suburbs. Not only was it mid-semester, but I was just starting to make new friends. I shut down and stopped applying myself in school. I failed English my senior year and didn’t pass high school in 2001. No one offered guidance,” Gaston said.
He began to rebel and was kicked out of the house when he was 19. He lived out of his car and slept on friends’ couches until he saved up enough money to get his first apartment. “It wasn’t until 2003 that I realized how important getting my diploma was, so I enrolled at Montgomery County Community College for English Comp I,” he said.
That enabled him to get his high school diploma, but then he lost momentum again.
“My downward spiral continued as I endured constant heartbreak from failed relationships and jumping from one career path to the next. I worked every type of job imaginable from pizza delivery and construction to plumbing, office work, customer service, and auto sales. I hated them all. I hated my life,” he said.
Moving back in with his mother and stepfather two years ago sapped what was left of his self-confidence.
“I literally wanted to die. There was just no hope left to break free from the endless cycle of low income and unfavorable living conditions,” he said.
And then he met a remarkable woman, who became an irresistible force acting on his inertia, urging him to go back to school.
“It’s not like I had anything to lose, anyway. I finally enrolled at the College again to take some liberal arts courses. That was what I needed all along, because it helped me remember how much I loved and excelled in science and math back before we moved. I was worried that being nearly 11 years out of school was going to hinder my ability to do well, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t just pick right back up where I left off,” Gaston said.
He changed his major to mathematics and started working toward his associate’s degree. “Remember that English Comp 1 class I took back in 2003? Those three credits, along with the 16 more I’d just earned over spring 2012, counted toward my major and I was already a few steps ahead,” he said.
“Along with the academic success, I began to see improvements in other parts of my life as well. I landed an assembly job in March 2012, which makes for a flexible college job with decent pay. I moved into an apartment. My feet are firmly grounded again and I know what I want out of life for the first time.”
He expects to graduate in December and then attend Temple in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
“I’m working extremely hard and have been keeping my grade point average high enough to qualify for scholarship money from Temple as part of their dual-enrollment agreement. Good incentive, if you ask me. I haven’t picked which field of engineering yet, but I’m leaning towards the architectural side of things. I think about creating art as well. With an engineering degree, the things I’d be able to conjure up could get pretty interesting. I want to travel endlessly and live life the way it should be lived: by having fun and making sure that my mark on the world be a memorable one.”
With a little luck, his momentum will continue, and chapters of Gaston’s story will continue to have happy endings.
“Words can’t describe the happiness that’s returned to my life. There’s a fire burning inside me now that’s made me feel like I’m 18 again,” Gaston said. “I’m done with limitations.”