There is a good chance that when you hear someone mention Houston’s Fifth Ward, there will be a reaction. Drug and crime-laden? Or just a historical area that is slowly coming back from years of decline? Either way, the Fifth Ward remains an important part of Houston’s past and present. Like any urban city, there are layers upon layers of good beneath the hard outer shell.
The reality is that the people are what make the difference in this community. The Fifth Ward has contributed to Houston’s strong cultural and political scene, with a variety of famous musicians, politicians and others that have left a lasting imprint, including Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland, as well as former heavyweight champion George Foreman.
Like many dreamers who grew up in the Fifth Ward, Dr. Seth Batiste wanted to do something different with his life; something that mattered. Batiste set out to make education a priority, and has devoted his life to the field.
Batiste will share his life experiences and his personal stories of hardship and grit with a special presentation, “My Higher Education Journey: From Fifth Ward Kid to Ph.D.” at Lone Star College-North Harris as part of the college’s celebration of Black History Month. The event will take place Thursday, Feb. 2 at noon in the college’s Academic Building, room 126. The event is free and open to the public.
From a young age, Batiste had a unique passion for learning. While other children dreaded going to school, Batiste would get upset if he had to miss a day. “When I was in elementary school, my mother had scheduled a doctor’s appointment during the school day,” said Batiste. “I cried so hard that the administrators convinced my mother to reschedule the appointment.”
Batiste loved school so much that his mother would often threaten him that if he misbehaved, she would keep him home from school. “Needless to say, I was pretty well-behaved in those early years,” added Batiste.
Thinking that earning a college degree was his best chance to get out of poverty, Batiste attended the University of Houston and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. After graduation, he took a job as a clerk at a law firm, with the intentions of going to law school. However, after a year with the firm, he realized that his career plans were going to change. “When I mentioned to a group of lawyers that I was interested in helping children and their families, they began to laugh at me saying that I would never make any money working with families.”
For Batiste, the idea of making money was tempting, however, sacrificing his passion for helping others was not an option to him. Shortly after that conversation, Batiste heard that the Houston Independent School District needed teachers, so he applied for a teaching position. During an interview, he was asked what area he would like to work in. According to Batiste, “I took a deep breath and said, I want to give back to my community. I pointed to the “northeast” section of the map and asked which school needed someone at the third grade level. It turned out, there was a school that had a vacancy.” He was hired, but with one caveat: Batiste still needed to obtain his teaching certificate. HISD desperately needed teachers so they gave him a deadline to get the certificate, which meant taking more college courses, including master’s-level courses.
Batiste had no plans to earn a master’s degree, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made, on both a professional and personal level. While completing his master’s research project in education at the University of the West Indies, he met his future wife.
Years later, when decided to take some time off from school, he started to feel depressed, but couldn’t figure out why. He felt that way for an entire year before realizing the obvious reason, “I missed learning,” added Batiste. Ready to take on the challenge, he enrolled in Our Lady of the Lake University and successfully completed his doctoral program in 2015.
Today, Batiste teaches developmental writing at LSC-North Harris, where he is using his dream of education and making it a reality to better serve others not only in the Fifth Ward, but in the greater Houston area as well.
For more information about Batiste’s presentation or other Black History Month events, visit LoneStar.edu/Black HistoryMonth.
Lone Star College-North Harris is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 East, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit LoneStar.edu/NorthHarris.
Lone Star College offers high-quality, low-cost academic transfer and career training education to 98,000 students each semester. LSC is training tomorrow’s workforce today and redefining the community college experience to support student success. Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., serves as chancellor of LSC, the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area with an annual economic impact of $3.1 billion. LSC consists of six colleges, eight centers, two university centers, Lone Star Corporate College and LSC-Online. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.