Courtney is special, but not different. She holds the proof in her hands. Fleeing “a bad environment” in Cincinnati, young Courtney and her mother found shelter with family in a little eastern Kentucky town—a little eastern Kentucky town with fewer than ten other African Americans living in it. Here, when young Courtney was feeling different, a teacher pointed out something about her hands that made her feel better.
“It didn’t matter what my color of skin was,” Courtney recounts. “She explained it by the color of my palm, said it’s no different than anybody else’s.” Since then, she has not thought of herself as different, and her classmates have not seemed to see her this way either.
She is not different, but Courtney is special. She holds the proof in her hands. The proof is a Berea College acceptance letter. In the kitchen, by the bar where they kept the mail, Courtney made her mother cry with just a few simple words: “Mom, I’m going.” She’s the first in her family to go.
Berea College is both different and special. The proof is in how Courtney’s hands will be put to work building a better future for herself and others. Courtney’s hands will crack open books and pound keyboards. They will become the tools of a mind dedicated to becoming the book editor Courtney dreams of being one day.
The proof is also in what Courtney’s hands will not hold: a burdensome debt. “It means a lot that people would donate money for a complete stranger’s education, and I am so grateful,” says Courtney, who felt she had to explain to her father on the phone what an important development this was.
“I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, I got the Berea scholarship!’ It took him a minute. I had to tell him what a big deal it was.” After she hung up with her dad, Courtney called to tell her aunt, but her aunt already knew. “My dad had already called her! He was like, ‘my baby got a scholarship!’” Maybe he understood what a big deal she had in her hands after all.
Courtney’s hands are special, and what she plans to do with them may be different. She plans to use them to inspire others, whether they are different or not. “With these hands I hope to encourage. I would like to set an example to say that it doesn’t matter if you’re from a small town, and it doesn’t matter what color you are. It’s where you want to be and how you want to get there. I hope to encourage that.”
Berea College hopes to encourage that, too. For nearly 160 years, we’ve held the proof in our hands that “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,(Acts 17:26)” different, special, or both.