With five children, Bertha Starks realized early on that she would need to help them through their nightly homework and various school projects. But because she dropped out of high school after only two-years, she realized that she was not necessarily prepared to do so. Disappointed and ashamed of her limited education, Bertha was also aware that she was challenged by emerging technologies that she had no experience with. Determined to become an example for her children and strongly believing that you can accomplish great things no matter where your life begins, she decided to return to the classroom. She enrolled in adult continuing education classes at Kennedy-King College and successfully achieved her general equivalency diploma (GED) in 1983.
But Bertha decided she wouldn’t stop there. For more than two-decades, many of her family members pursued their undergrad degree, but failed to graduate. Bertha’s goal was to change that. Once again, she enrolled at Kennedy-King College – located at that time on 69th & Wentworth Street. Because she wasn’t able to afford childcare while she attended classes, Bertha often brought her children along to work on their own schoolwork at the back of her instructor’s classrooms. While she took a range of classes to earn her degree, she discovered that she enjoyed solving issues and helping people identify and accomplish their life goals. At an advisor’s suggestion, she pursued sociology and completed her associate degree in 1990.
Bertha also learned that behavioral studies, especially psychology, challenged and fascinated her. So, with her two-year degree in hand, Bertha enrolled at Roosevelt University and completed her Bachelor’s of General Science in 2006. While working in various professions, Bertha held positions as director, trainer, manager, credit and customer service ambassador, and completed a mental health practicum – all while in school. Bertha continued to pursue her education and obtained a Master’s in Psychology, leading to her current success as a behavior modification coach.
Bertha set a strong example of working to obtain an education no matter the obstacles and challenges, and her children, with the exception of her son who passed away in 2000, have all gone on to complete their educations and have successful careers. All four of her daughters have completed their undergrad studies and have gone on to successful careers as a real estate investor, a social worker, a teacher, and a dentist with the promise of become an orthodontist in May 2019.
Bertha is as inspirational as she is inspired, playing a prominent role in the community through her appearances on her very own talk show, Real Talk With Bertha Starks on CAN-TV via Comcast Cable on Channel 19 & 21 in Chicago. Bertha, who is executive director, producer, creator and host, interviews community leaders, business people, politicians and others who further her mission of uplifting Chicago with honest, positive, encouraging and influential stories.
As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Bertha also volunteers her time to assist in organizing and promoting Kennedy-King College’s chapter of the City Colleges Chicago Alumni Association.
Says Bertha, “City Colleges is where I got my bravado and courage. City Colleges is where my world views changed tremendously. I knew nothing of classical music. I knew nothing of biology. I came to City Colleges knowing ‘what’ I wanted. City Colleges taught me the ‘why’. All this started there. I’m also happy to give back by spending my time in the environment that established standards and set clear boundaries for me in life.”