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A College Dream Inspired by a Song

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News & Notes producer Jenee Darden is up for this week's staff song pick. Her choice is Bon Jovi's "It's My Life," and she explains how the song encouraged her to pursue her college dream.


It's time now for our Staff Song Pick of the Week.

(Soundbite of song, "It's My Life")

Mr. JON BON JOVI (Lead Singer, Bon Jovi): (Singing) This ain't a song for the broken hearted.

CHIDEYA: The song is Bon Jovi's 2000 smash hit, "It's My Life." It's off their double-platinum album, "Crush." This single revitalized the New Jersey band's career after a five-year hiatus. The success came a new crop of young Bon Jovi fans including NEWS & NOTES producer Jenee Darden.

JENEE DARDEN: Has someone ever told you that you can't achieve your dream? But deep inside you hear a soft, gentle voice that says, don't give up, you can do anything. Well, sometimes, that voice inside of me isn't very soft. It actually sounds more like this.

(Soundbite of song, "It's My Life")

Mr. BON JOVI: (Singing) It's my life. It's now or never. I ain't going to live forever. I just want to live while I'm alive.

DARDEN: I got hooked on Bon Jovi when I was a junior in college. Their song, "It's My Life" influenced a big decision I made back then.

Like so many young black girls, my dream was to move to Atlanta and attend the historically black college Spelman. I always pictured myself on that small Southern campus, analyzing society with intelligent, ambitious black women. I was accepted to Spelman but I didn't get enough financial aid to go.

I remember sitting on my bed in Oakland, staring at my acceptance letter. My dream was shot and I was devastated. I decided to save money and go to the University of California San Diego instead. It was just my luck that UCSD offered an exchange program to Spelman.

Four years later, I'm sitting in my San Diego bedroom, staring at another Spelman acceptance letter. Only this time, I was accepted into the exchange program. This is my last chance to get a taste of that black college experience I always wondered about.

Some people in my family didn't think it was such a good idea. They would say, you have one more year to finish school. Just stay in San Diego. What about your apartment? And, of course, how are you going to pay for this? I thought it over and prayed. Then one day, I was watching T.V. and turned to VH1. There was my answer. Four guys with long hair from New Jersey blaring to me.

(Soundbite of song, "It's My Life")

Mr. BON JOVI: (Singing) It's my life. MY heart is like an open highway. Like Frankie said I did it my way. I just want to live while I'm alive. It's my life.

DARDEN: Then it hit me. I can't live for everybody else. This is my life. I dipped into my savings account, packed my bags and flew to Atlanta that fall. I had the time of my life. All the football games, marching bands, step shows, parties, fried catfish in the school cafeteria - what an experience. And to be surrounded by black female professors empowered me.

Who would have thought a Bon Jovi song led me to a black college? To this day, "It's My Life" is stored on my mental play list. Now, when others try to block me, I tune up the negative, crank up Bon Jovi, and keep living my life.

(Soundbite of song, "It's My Life")

Mr. BON JOVI: (Singing) It's my life. It's now or never.

CHIDEYA: That was producer, Jenee Darden with her Staff Song Pick of the Week, "It's My Life" from Bon Jovi.

(Soundbite of song, "It's My Life")

Mr. BON JOVI: (Singing) I just want to live while I'm alive. It's my life. My heart is like an open highway. Like Frankie said I did it my way.

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today, thank you for sharing your time with us. To listen to this show or subscribe to our podcast, visit our Web site, No spaces, just To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

Tomorrow, the new memorial at New York's African Burial Ground.

I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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