The Division of General Studies at Illinois was my first home on campus for about a year and a half, and I really enjoyed it. They pushed me to figure out what was right for me. I came in thinking I was going to be a sports broadcaster. A few classes and some hands-on experiences showed me that my path probably lay elsewhere.

My favorite class in my first year was AFRO 100, Introduction to African American Studies. It was so interesting – seeing history, culture, and time periods through an Afro-centric lens. Dr. Bailey, the course Professor and Department Head, was a wonderful mentor. We talked during office hours, where I shared draft papers and career ideas. He connected me to resources and people on campus for anything I was trying to do. He became a key support through my entire undergraduate experience, and I enthusiastically chose African American Studies as my major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

During my time at Illinois, I was very involved on campus. I was a Resident Advisor (RA) and President of the Black Student Union for Ikenberry Commons, as well as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha (ΑΦΑ) Fraternity and the 100 Strong mentoring program. These experiences helped shape what I am doing now. I’m from the South Side of Chicago and went to Urban Prep Academy’s Englewood Campus. I had a lot of friends from the area who went to different schools but ended up not doing too well. Because of grades and other factors, they left their universities and ended up having to go back home. Working with 100 Strong, I gained a passion for helping students, specifically minority students, maintain their status at the university because it was pretty difficult to do. Through ΑΦΑ, I developed as a leader, but it also humbled me. I learned the core values of integrity and selflessness; I learned that it’s about service and giving back. Being involved in 100 Strong and ΑΦΑ pushed me into what I’m doing now, wanting to focus on giving back and helping students.

Now I am an Alumni Success Coach for the Noble Network of Charter Schools. I specifically work with the College Team for South Side schools, helping students with academic, financial, and social needs after they leave the high school and during their freshman year of college. The goal is to improve persistence and retention rates so they can graduate from the 4-year colleges and institutions that they are at. I also create and maintain relationships with university staff to support these students.

I love what I am doing so much. Illinois helped me find my passion for helping minority students, gave me the knowledge, tools and work ethic to cultivate what I was trying to do, and helped turn my passion into a job. I continue learning more and more each day. And, I can see the impact that I am making as I travel to different universities and help students in one-on-one meetings.

For current students, I encourage you to take the time to figure out how to make a difference with whatever you are doing. Remember to give back to the world around you – this is what brings happiness. I have a lot of friends who went to school on a mission to get a high-paying job, seeking happiness in wealth and accolades. But now, they are not happy. I believe it is important to figure out what you are happy about first, then to use that to make a positive difference.