As part of the Division of Student Affairs’ initiative for Diversity and Inclusion, we at I Am Rutgers have started the #RUIDProject to highlight the many diverse identities, experiences, and reflections of the Rutgers student body. Students featured in this project share how they choose to identify themselves and how Rutgers either helps them express their identity or has helped shape their identity. If you would like to be featured in this project, share a picture of yourself and how you choose to identify using the hashtag #RUIDProject on Instagram or contact us via email.
In 2008, my life changed forever once I became a Rutgers Future Scholar. A bold, little 7th grader who was full of life and attitude took on a challenge that my family and I had never explored: pursuing a college degree. Being a first generation college student, conversations about college were not a part of my family’s scope of knowledge, so I looked to the Rutgers Future Scholars program for guidance. I interacted with the staff on a daily basis, trucking my way to their offices on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus every chance that I could to help with everything from menial office work to communicating with donors through letters and meetings. My efforts meant something to them, and I earned the right to be featured prominently across the university in support of the program. Speaking to donors and business professionals about the great work that the program was doing for me, my family and inner city kids within Rutgers communities became second nature. I was growing up in this bubble of professional ferocity as a young kid looking to conquer the world, starting with the burgeoning Rutgers Future Scholars.
In May 2011, my life changed again, but this time for the worse. Without sharing too many of the painful details, my mother passed away very suddenly at the age of 31 just after the weekend of Rutgers Day where I had been tabling with Rutgers Future Scholars. On Monday morning I was getting dressed to go to school, and on Thursday that week I was saying goodbye to my silent mother on her hospital bed. Her last words included a message to me about getting my school work done, and paying her parking tickets. Today, I am a senior in college with plenty of parking tickets and I have the will/determination to make my life mean something and everything that my mom inspired in me.
In May 2017, things will never be the same once again. I will graduate on May 14th– Mother’s Day. I know my mom is proud today, and she will see to it that I walk the graduation stage as the little seventh grader with attitude who had dreams bigger than what his eyes could see in 2008. For a while after she passed, I struggled with change. I just wanted to make some part of my life consistent, just to give myself peace of mind. I have realized that my struggles have only made my triumphs mean so much more to me and the people who know my story. I am no longer afraid of seeing what challenge tomorrow may bring, and I learned that right here at Rutgers. My identity is Rutgers; Scarlet is more than a color to me. It represents the blood of my mother who died leaving me with a purpose to fulfill.
The next chapter will continue to build on my lifelong journey toward something and everything in May 2017. And this time I will write the pages of a glorious story that is my own, my way, and in honor of my hopes and dreams.