Phi Theta Kappa members Shaneka and Anthony Langhorne knew they could get more out of life with an education. But an Ivy League education? Something like that wasn’t even on their radar. But in the fall, they will both become students at Columbia University.
The Langhornes married young, right out of high school. They had both done well in school and had taken some college courses, but neither of them ever finished. Shaneka was a stay-at-home mom to their two young daughters, and Anthony worked as a customer service representative at New York Life Insurance Company in Tampa, Florida.
“I was tired of going to a job that did not fulfill my purpose in life,” Anthony said. “I knew that academia was the answer, and I longed for learning new things to get outside of the weekly norm for my life.
“I returned to college in search of a career that will utilize my gifts and at the same time provide a decent income for my family.”
Today, an Ivy League education is in their direct line of vision. Both Anthony and Shaneka will begin classes in September at Columbia University’s School of General Studies in New York. Anthony plans to major in Architecture, and Shaneka plans to major in Environmental Biology.
“Now that I am going to attend an Ivy League university in one of the greatest cities in the United States, I have more confidence in myself, and confidence that I will be able to raise my daughters with the highest standards and in the best environment that can be provided to them,” Shaneka said. “I teach my daughters the information that I learn, and I am teaching the benefits of education with every semester.”
The couple’s journey began when they returned to local community colleges. Anthony enrolled in Hillsborough Community College, located just a quick five-minute drive from his office. Despite the flexibility of night and online classes, Anthony often struggled under the load of working fulltime, attending school fulltime, and being a good parent.
“As a returning student, I had acquired a lot of responsibility in and outside my home,” he said. “I was a husband, a father of two daughters, a deacon in my church, the youth director in my church, the sole provider for my family working 40-plus (hours)…I had various leadership roles in extracurricular activities, and then adding full-time student on top of all the other obligations.
“With all of my responsibilities, my number one challenge was time. Then my second would be quality. With everything I was involved in, it was very hard executing everything at 100 percent.”
Anthony’s sister-in-law recommended he become involved in Phi Theta Kappa, so he researched the group and set a goal to be invited to join. Upon his induction into the Alpha Lambda Alpha Chapter, he began participating in the Five Star Competitive Edge Program to help develop his leadership skills. He also began mentoring his classmates and his church youth group, encouraging them to excel.
“I was able to witness the leadership and commitment that was shared throughout the organization,” Anthony said. “These experiences gave me a snapshot of my purpose as a scholar in my society. I learned that my commitment to complete my education went past my own selfish ambition but furthered its course to become an example for others to be motivated and inspired to do the same.”
Shaneka’s inspiration for returning to school was found in the couple’s two young daughters, LaChea and Lyvia. She was generally unemployed, and the tremendous costs required for raising two young children began to take a toll on the family. She enrolled at St. Petersburg College, which she had attended a few years earlier.
“As a new mother of one daughter and (at the time an) expecting mother of another daughter, I thought a lot about how I would be the most prominent figure in my daughter’s lives,” Shaneka said. “I knew that I would demand academic excellence from my daughter, and I feel that nothing is a better teacher than experience.”
Shaneka accepted her invitation to the Eta Nu Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa as a means of validating her achievements for herself and for her family. She said being a part of a network of “academic achievers” gave her the confidence to apply to outstanding colleges. And, it brought outstanding colleges to them.
Anthony’s Phi Theta Kappa membership landed him an invitation to a local recruitment event for Columbia University. He almost passed, but Shaneka suggested they both attend the event. When it came time to consider transfer colleges, neither of them hesitated to apply to Columbia.
“My husband and I decided that we wanted to move from Florida,” Shaneka said. “When we discovered than an Ivy League institution was interested in us, we set our goals toward attending Columbia University.”
Now, the couple’s future is clear. Anthony plans to join the Masters of Architecture program and become a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified green designer, while Shaneka plans to earn a law degree and practice Environmental Law. The couple would then like to move their family abroad to Brazil as they begin their careers, exposing their daughters to opportunities they never before thought possible.
“I feel that my daughters will view their parents’ accomplishments and commitment towards education, and their observation will create a standard that they will follow as they begin their academic careers,” Anthony said. “This I feel is the most important objective in life. You want your children and their children to exceed your accomplishments, and our goal is to set that standard high.”