Success Story: Barbara Teed

Barbara Teed
Alpha Kappa Alpha Chapter
Normandale Community College
Barbara Teed on the Red Carpet at the Academy Awards ceremony

Barbara Teed on the Red Carpet at the Academy Awards ceremony

Barbara Teed on the Red Carpet at the Academy Awards ceremony

Lights, Camera, Action! There I was, a journalist from the Midwest, in Hollywood on the Red Carpet of the Academy Awards, interviewing Oscar winners. How can this be possible? Because of Phi Theta Kappa.

Long before I covered the Academy Awards, I covered campus news for my community college newspaper, earning investigative awards. I had gone back to college after raising five children and faced many obstacles to campus life: financial insecurity, non-traditional age, unsupportive family members, and a son born with Down syndrome still dependent on me. I entered Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota, on a Pell Grant, work-study, and a Jeannette Rankin Scholarship.

The president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Chapter would stop by and chat while I was working in the Student Center, encouraging me to join Phi Theta Kappa. I wasn't interested in campus student life; I was shy, middle-aged, and sure that students wouldn't accept me. I finally gave in to his pleas and was inducted in February 2004.

Our advisor, Linda Tetzlaff, encouraged me to run for chapter office. I wasn't interested because I didn't think younger students would vote for me, but I was elected Vice President of Public Relations and discovered Phi Theta Kappa to be one of the most diverse organizations I have ever encountered. My age was not an obstacle in Phi Theta Kappa. Next, our advisor encouraged me to run for regional office. I overcame my hesitation about speaking in front of students and was elected Minn-Wi-Kota Regional President. I received a Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise scholarship.

In 2006, I entered Phi Theta Kappa's USA TODAY Case Study Challenge, thinking, "how can I compete?" When I received my winning award in front of 4,000 cheering students, I overcame another obstacle, comparing my work to others.

At the end of my community college education, my advisor again encouraged me, this time to apply for Phi Theta Kappa transfer scholarships. I wasn't interested because a four-year college degree was not part of my family system and, besides, only traditional aged students ever receive those. But because of the validation and encouragement I received from Phi Theta Kappa, I submitted my applications.

As I graduated in my high honors regalia, the college president asked me to stand in front of the audience as she recognized my scholarship achievements:

  • First Team, National All-USA Community College Academic Team
  • All-State Community College Academic Team
  • New Century Scholar, State of Minnesota
  • Guistwhite National Scholarship
  • Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

I was one of only three Phi Theta Kappa students in the nation to receive honors in all of those categories. And what's interesting: We were non-traditional students.

I entered The New School in New York City to study journalism , and in my senior year lived in an 1800s apartment in Greenwich Village. After graduating with a bachelor's degree with honors in 2010, I interned at a Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper and applied to cover the Academy Awards. Nearly 5,000 media representatives apply each year, and 254 are accepted to be backstage interviewing Oscar winners as they step off the stage with their gold statue. I did not think I would be one of the privileged few but I was selected to be on the Red Carpet. The Academy liked my work, and I was asked to go back for the 2011 Awards ceremony.

In 2010, I received the Jack Kent Cooke Continuing Graduate scholarship to work on my master's degree. I am currently enrolled at Hamline University Graduate School majoring in writing and journalism.

None of this would have been possible without Phi Theta Kappa.