The intersectionality of being African-American, female, and a first-generation college student is what sparked my passion for inclusion and equity. Because I wanted to give back to the program that gave so much to me, I served as an Opportunity Scholars Program (OSP) mentor to freshman OSP students . I was also a Residential Counselor for another TRIO program called Upward Bound. Upward Bound is a pre-college program to encourage and motivate economically disadvantaged high school students to seek post-secondary school education. Coming from a low-income background and from the same exact neighborhood as many of the students I was overseeing, I could directly relate to the struggle they were facing and did my best to be an example that you can be bigger than your circumstances.
During my sophomore year, I was asked to be the Director of Diversity & Inclusion on the Student Body Vice-President’s staff in Student Government. In that role, I made it my mission to create programming to bring organizations together that wouldn’t usually have a reason to mingle. That was my first time being a part of an organization that wasn't predominantly African-American which was an adjustment for me, especially since my position directly dealt with multicultural outreach. I had the unique task of trying to make underrepresented populations on campus feel comfortable and welcomed when I wasn't sure I felt it for myself quite yet.
After a successful year in that role, I became Student Government’s first-ever Secretary of Inclusion & Equity and fostered collaboration with multiple campus entities. Through this role, I partnered with various campus departments to put on UofSC First Generation Student Celebration Day, speaking out about the ways mental health affects minority students during Stigma Free USC, and helping to plan UofSC’s first ever Diversity Week, entitled “All About USc”. During my term, Student Government partnered with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs to host Chrismahanukwanzikah, an event to highlight winter holidays from all over the world and celebrate the traditions and customs of various cultures. I worked with a team of about 10-12 people and was able to utilize what I learned in Management 371-Principles of Management. Those skills included being able to effectively lead a team, working with different types of personalities, implenting benchmark assessments, and making effective communication a priority. A full report of what I and my team accomplished during our term is in my artifacts below.
My commitment to service led me to working with Innersole and The Original Six Foundation to host school tours to bring rural elementary and middle schools to the University of South Carolina that don’t usually get exposed to college. I was able to gather student volunteers to take students on tours to get a feel for what it’s like to be a Gamecock. I created “lesson plans”and taught a mini-class to each group to teach the steps they need to take to prepare for high school and college. This work was very personal to me and I jumped at the opportunity to expose the students to college life because the schools they came from were much like the ones I grew up in.
In October 2018, I was the only undergraduate speaker at the inaugural TEDxUofSC and shared my experiences as a first-generation college student and a woman of color. I discussed overcoming stereotypes and supplied ways to combat them while explaining how to use adversity as a creative spark and highlighting the power of diversity and inclusion. The process of preparing for my TEDx talk, I was able to use the skills that I learned in the Opportunity Scholars Program section of Speech 140-Public Communication. Even though I've been speaking publicly since Kindergarten, in that class, I was able to refine my speech writing skills as well as learn tips to help me with the memorization that TEDx speaking requires. To bring the moment full circle, my Speech 140 professor Elyn Blackman ended up serving as my speech and preparation coach for TEDX. In my TEDx talk, I opened up about feeling out of place amongst my colleagues while in pursuit of justice and equity.
I've been blessed with the opportunity to build a platform to inspire more students that look like me and come from backgrounds like me to seek a seat at the table and make achievement a priority. Often times at a large campus like the University of South Carolina, it’s easy to feel like just a number and unimportant. However, I feel that the efforts I've made as a student leader directly and indirectly contribute to making this campus more inclusive and welcoming for all students, particularly for those like me.