34 January/February 2014 | BethesdaMagazine.com
When the PTA was giving out gift
certificates to Chick-fil-A—a restaurant
chain whose owner has denounced gay
marriage—Pollard protested. She feels a
responsibility “to help people be aware
that there are different types of families.”
Her job at Montgomery College is all
about understanding and appreciating
differences. The student body of almost
60,000 (including part-timers) represents more than 160 different countries.
Fewer than 30 percent are white. Thousands are undocumented immigrants.
Many are poor.
But all the threads of DeRionne Pol-
lard’s life have prepared her for this
role. The daughter whose father lost his
job and fed his family on government-
issued cheese knows about financial
struggles. The freshman who couldn’t
find stockings to match her skin color
knows about adjusting to strange envi-
ronments. The niece who did her home-
work on a bench at Prairie State knows
the value of education.
“Community college is the place
where the American dream becomes
real,” Pollard says. “One person in a fam-
ily getting a college education can break
the cycle of poverty. Just one person.”
The lessons she learned at Providence
Baptist are never far from her mind. She
is a sister-mother herself now. She once
considered a career in the ministry and
describes her mission at Montgomery
College in pastoral terms.
“We’re this little church in the com-
munity, trying to help people live their
best life,” she says. “You come to me
tired, hungry, broke, poor—and our job
is to meet you where you are and get you
to where you want to go.”
To make her point she breaks into a
lilting soprano, singing a verse from “I
Need You to Survive,” a hymn from her
old church, her old life.
I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words
from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive. n
Steve Roberts teaches journalism and
politics at George Washington University.
Send ideas for future columns to sroberts