Falcon Family of the Year

At 23 years old, graduate student Antoinette Newsome is the youngest of 11 children. She comes from a very tight-knit family that has shown her strong support throughout her life, especially during her time at Bowling Green State University. That’s why the Newsome family was chosen as the 2014 Falcon Family of the Year. They were recognized at the Sept. 13 home football game, during Falcon Family Weekend.

“My family has been an essential part of my education journey,” said Newsome in her nomination letter. “They have empowered and challenged me in ways that allow me to not only become a better student but also a better support system for my colleagues.”

Newsome is a second-year graduate student who works in the Office of TRIO Programs. She completed her undergraduate studies in her home state, at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She chose to come to BGSU not only because of the reputation of the Student Affairs Program but also because she wanted a place where she could grow.

“I knew I wanted to go somewhere that’s completely different, that’s going to make me come out of my shell, make me step outside the box,” she said.

Bowling Green was Newsome’s first experience away from home, without any family nearby.

“I am very family oriented and I don’t think I would have been fully able to go through being so far away from home without the support of my family,” she said.

The Falcon Family Award is given to a current student whose family provides ongoing support, serves as a positive role model, makes personal and/or professional sacrifices, helps the student gain independence, provides the tools to be successful, and continues to empower and challenge him or her.

“I truly value my family and give credit to them for everything that I have been able to do,” she said. “If it was not for the sacrifices and mistakes of those who came before me, I would not be as successful as I am today.”

Newsome’s mother is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., and her father, who passed away during her first year of college, was from Harrellsville, N.C. Her parents raised their family on Staten Island, but by the time she became school-aged, they decided to move to North Carolina to get away from the inner city.

“They had a lot of children, obviously, but the neighborhood was getting really bad so they decided to move back to where my dad was from,” she said.

Today, the Newsome family is spread throughout the entire country, mostly in North Carolina and New York, with one sibling in California. Despite the distance between them, they still manage to stay connected through group messaging and other ways, thanks to new technology.

“My family is able to still support me regardless of the distance between us. We literally talk to each other every day. Without them I wouldn’t be here,” she said.

Among her 11 siblings, Newsome has an adopted brother, making her family even larger. Altogether, her parents had seven boys and five girls.

She described her parents as having “really big hearts.”

Having all of those brothers and sisters has its benefits. Newsome depends on each of them in their own unique way, depending on the situation.

“I look up to all of them in different ways because some have had to overcome certain kinds of challenges more than others,” she said. “We support each other in everything that we do.”

While she depends on her siblings for emotional support, it’s her mother who is most important to her.

“Our relationship has grown exponentially,” she said. “We have always been close but we have been able to connect even more as I have grown older.”

Newsome’s mother, also named Antoinette, is currently working on her GED at the age of 63.  She has a twin sister and is also one of 11 children. Newsome describes her as a hard worker who is active in her church and its after-school program.

“I know that she has been proud of me but I can definitely say that I feel more proud of her working to complete an educational goal,” she said.

Newsome’s 41-year-old brother also recently received his GED, which has sparked her interest in studying adult learners. She worked on a group project about adult learners and received the Dr. Carolyn Palmer Adult Learner Contribution Scholarship through the Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs.

“Seeing my mom and brother go through school at a later age truly pushes me to want to learn more about this particular population,” she said.

Eight of the Newsome children have college degrees and two have their master’s. Antoinette will receive her master’s degree in May and hopes to become the first in her family to complete a Ph.D. She credits her parents for encouraging her and her siblings to study hard and pursue their college educations.

“As a low-income, first-generation college student, I would not be here today if it weren’t for them,” she said. “My family has provided me with emotional and financial support, which is critical to the ongoing support that allows me to learn and grow daily.”