Antoine Dennis is flying high: He’s going to college. “I never thought I would have a high school diploma. Now I got the diploma, I enrolled in college and I know I can do anything, as long as I think right and stay positive and focused,” he declared one recent sweltering summer’s day. “I look at that diploma and, oh my God, my morale is through the roof!”
Last June, after studying for four months at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) with Adult Education Program (AEP) tutors Pat, Curt and Rob, Antoine passed the test to earn his diploma. “Nothing’s gonna hold me down. That diploma made me think that in life, there are certain steps you take. If you don’t get off your behind, you’re never gonna take a step.” Antoine has a flight plan: “I’m taking steps. First an associate’s degree and then I want to set my mind on a bachelor’s.”
Back in February, Antoine decided he needed to go back to school. He walked through the doors at TASK and AEP Coordinator Kelly Hansen signed him up. That’s when things started to change for him. “TASK was the perfect place for me. Miss Kelly believed in me and kept pushing me. She gave me the determination to want to do more.” And he did. Soon thereafter, brand-new diploma in hand, he signed up for courses at Mercer County Community College.
MCCC has a strong aeronautics department, but he is caught between pursuing a career in aviation, his first love, and, perhaps, teaching. What brings him back to Earth are thoughts of his childhood and of his responsibilities as a father of three. “My mother worked hard to give me the best life she could,” he said. “I want to graduate college so my mom knows all her hard work will someday pay off. I’ll be that blessing. And my kids — I’m their role model. I want to show them we can still be cool and go to school. The real world doesn’t give you everything and we have to work to get something out of it.”
“TASK changed my life. It gave me structure. It uplifted me,” said Antoine. “I love this place. No lie.” Now in the pilot’s seat, he’s getting ready for takeoff.