My Father’s Words

African- American father and son hugging

“Don’t let it whip you!” I can hear my father’s voice resonate within me as I encounter life’s challenges. From a very young age, he helped me establish a drive to overcome any obstacle that could prohibit me from accomplishing something. As a kid, I would start a difficult task (e.g. attempt to carry a heavy object from one place to another), and then realize that I was in over my head. My father would tell me, “Don’t let it whip you!” Once I listened to his words, I would start to think about the problem differently and find a way to complete the task. As I grew from a young boy to a young man, I have spoken his words numerous times in order to ground myself and achieve what I set out to do.

After high school, I graduated from the University of South Carolina (USC). This experience helped me understand that certain things in life do not come easy to everyone. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Though with enough persistence, almost anything is possible. Once I began to develop realistic goals for my future, I was faced with the challenge of being accepted into graduate school. I knew that I would be able to complete the academic work at the graduate level; however, graduate programs examine many aspects of an applicant before offering a letter of acceptance (i.e. GRE scores, GPA, research experience, etc.). After applying to one graduate program during my senior year at USC (Go COCKS!), I was not admitted into the program. The time I had put into submitting an application seemed useless.

At first, I felt defeated. I aspired to be a school psychologist, but I knew that I needed to attend graduate school. Eventually, I told myself, “Don’t let it whip you!” I said these words over and over as I relentlessly pursued my goal. I obtained research positions to provide an income and gained valuable experiences necessary for graduate school. I worked with some of the best mentors and supervisors for a year until I was accepted into multiple graduate programs. Ultimately, I chose to attend James Madison University.

As a graduate student, I felt I had accomplished a lot, but I know that I still had quite a bit of work to complete before becoming a school psychologist. I wanted to share my story with others about what I had already accomplished, and my career goals. So, I applied for a National Minority Scholarship with the National Association of School Psychologists. To my surprise, I became one of three recipients to receive this scholarship! Winning the award was a validation of the hard work I had invested in reaching my goals thus far. It also recharged my drive to overcome obstacles I know I will encounter during my career.  

As part of my training, I secured an internship with Greenville County Schools in South Carolina. During this year-long venture, many challenges I faced exposed some personal weaknesses. I thrived on learning from my mistakes, and I tried to make some sort of improvement each day. Not having any experience at my position was very intimidating and I constantly doubted myself and my abilities to make it through the year. Many nights I would become frustrated and overwhelmed with the things on my to-do list. “Don’t let it whip you!” I said these words aloud to change my attitude and become more confident. I realized that there had been struggles in the past, and I have seen great results from being persistent when solving difficult problems.

I have completed my degree and training; now I am excited to enter my career as a school psychologist during the 2015-2016 school year. My journey thus far has been a rollercoaster with lots of success and setbacks. I am certain that I will continue to set goals in my life. I understand that with each goal comes a new set of challenges. Remembering the simple words “Don’t let it whip you!” gives me the confidence and determination to achieve whatever I set out to do.


About the Author
Joe Sims

Joe Sims

Joe Sims is a school psychologist with District 5 Schools of Spartanburg County in South Carolina. He attended James Madison University (JMU) where he received his Master of Arts in 2013 and Education Specialist degree in 2015. Before his graduate studies at JMU, Joe attended the University of South Carolina and received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Joe is in his first year as a school psychologist and has had numerous experiences through his internship with Greenville County Schools in South Carolina to prepare him for the journey ahead. Aside from the new career, Joe enjoys spending time with his fiance and their dog. He also enjoys playing basketball in his spare time and uses the sport to maintain a healthy lifestyle.