Karen Thompson – Humans of UofL


    I am a first generation college student. In my teenage years, the importance of a college education was never discussed. However, finding employment after high school was emphasized. My parents did not have high school degrees but worked hard in low paying jobs or on welfare to take care of the family. Upon graduating from high school the majority of my Male High school graduating class of 1974 was excited about attending college. I did not fully understand what college was all about. I wanted to attend college too. After attending University of Louisville for two years, I had to drop out. Today, I realize that back then, I was not disciplined or academically prepared for college.

    I had no work experience and had no goals I wanted to achieve. I remember thinking, I might be a better candidate for trade school because you can obtain a good paying job after training. Besides, I needed exposure to various work environments and needed the time to get to know myself before pursuing an academic education in the future. After self-reflection, I knew what field to choose as I reviewed training being offered. I remember witnessing a tragic car and motorcycle accident and a female foot in a sandal landed a few feet in front of me. I wondered how would the doctors re-attach her foot.

    After I enrolled and completed a six-week nurse aide training program, Norton’s Hospital hired me. After orientation, I and a few other nurse aides had the opportunity to choose desired areas such as Labor and Delivery, ICU and so on. I had not connected to my life’s desire or passion, but out of the two options I had, I chose to work in the Burn Unit. As time went by, a beloved plastic surgeon, the late Dr. Gerald Verdi encouraged me to get a surgical technology degree. I did, and made a good salary for many years. My world expanded. I got to work with the exceptionally gifted; Dr. Gerald Verdi, Dr. Gordon Tobin, and Dr. Christopher Shields and many more awesome surgeons. These surgeons made a big impact on my life in many small ways. Through their encouragement I found my passion in life-encouraging others.

    “The giving of love is an education in itself” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

    During my daughter’s primary education years, I made sure she heard encouraging buzz words “learn all you can, you must get a college degree.” Eventually, I had to make the decision to forfeit a good paying job as a scrub technician to be home with my daughter after school and attend her sports events. I was determined not to raise a latch-key kid and wanted to give her every opportunity to get the college education I did not obtain. I left the medical field seeking employment for a 9-5pm job. I worked as a secretary for social workers at Child Protective Services for a couple of years, then as an administrative assistant at the Presbyterian Church USA. After PCUSA reorganized I was able to find employment at the Department of Justice Administration at University of Louisville.

    It was a struggle economically, but worth it. I was able to complete an Associate in Arts and Science at Jefferson Community College. Years later, during my daughter’s senior year at Male H.S. (Kendria Braxton #40) was offered a women’s basketball scholarship at University of Louisville. She was prepared for college. She graduated from the UofL with a Sports Administration degree (98’). Later, married UofL football player Terry Rice-Locket #35 and obtained her master’s degree while raising their two daughters. She currently works at Get Healthy Now.

    After making sacrifices to raise my daughter, later in life University of Louisville gave me the opportunity through tuition remission to complete my bachelor’s degree in Justice Administration in 2011. I have nine more credit hours to earn my master’s degree in Criminal Justice.

    Do not despise small beginnings.