By: Alem Giorgis
Born and raised in New Orleans, La., Raymond Hebard has traversed a long and arduous journey to his current role as a GPC student.
Growing up in an extremely difficult environment of crime and poverty, Raymond learned early about the harsh realities of life.
He explained how torn he was when his father became addicted to heroine and left him and his pregnant mother right before his fourth birthday. Being raised by a single mother and surviving on welfare and food stamps became even bleaker for Hebard when his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was only a pre-teen.
Throughout his mother’s harrowing struggle with mental illness, unemployment and homelessness, Hebard was primarily raised by his grandmother, who he credits with literally saving him from living on the street.
At 17 years old, Hebard quickly accepted the offer of a Navy recruiter who convinced him to enlist in the military and leave behind the increasingly traumatic and precarious environment of his hometown.
After a few years, however, Hebard became disillusioned by the war and chose to leave the Navy in search of a different, more fulfilling path.
Hebard spent several years working at various jobs, including retail management.
Though only a young man searching for his way in the world, Hebard became the guardian of his ill mother.
Now, not only does he multi-task the demands of being a son and caregiver, he is also a dedicated husband and a full-time student with an intense course load.
Hebard is often seen in the library, tutoring center or computer lab well into the evening. As a career changer, he possesses an enormous amount of drive, and his commitment to his education is well-evidenced by his excellent performance in school and stellar GPA.
Though he carries a great burden, Hebard is adamant not to portray his life through the lens of victimhood.
Rather, he describes the turbulence and anguish he has endured as a series of experiences that have molded him into the resilient man he is today.
“The people who were chief engineers in raising me taught me that although I was poor in money, I could be rich in intelligence, honor and dignity,” said Hebard. “I stand on the shoulders of giants, and there is an endless tapestry of people who have loved me, invested time in me and inspired me.”
Hebard’s gratitude and reverence for his past is quite clear.
In addition, his encyclopedic understanding of civil rights in- creases as he makes an effort to prompt change in the world.
So, despite being a computer science major (due to his penchant for coding), Hebard is passionate about justice and politics because of all that he has witnessed in his life.
Hence, in his social science classes, he is a vocal participant in lively debates about race, equality, and government.
He is especially keen on debunking destructive myths and stereotypes about poverty.
Hebard explained, “Until children can choose their parents, we have to create social safety nets to protect them. No one should be treated like trash. So, I’m personally invested because I have inherited a legacy. My moral compass leans towards justice and kindness.”
Hebard’s honorable actions and wise words truly speak volumes of his character. As he paused to reflect on his journey to GPC, He- bard offered to leave this last bit of advice to fellow GPC students, “Education is the means by which you can discover and reinvent your- self. We are the result of our experiences, and being a college student is yet another experience in our lives that can change and shape us. And through it all, we ultimately realize the most important relationship in our lives is with ourselves.”