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.
My name is Rebekkah Nanci McLellan. My name carries the elegance of two strong women in my family. My name will soon carry more than elegance but it will carry the weight of my entire family. I am a first generation college student. Being the first to not only graduate from college but also the first to pursue even higher education, allows me to put my family into a different category than we have always been shoved into. I grew up in a small town in Virginia with a family that lived below the poverty line and continues to dance on that fine line. I by no means am ashamed of where I come from because we work hard and live a good life but I will give my family a different future.
College itself was something in my mind I never thought was out of reach until I hit high school and the economic privilege accountability kicked in. It didn’t matter that I was top of my class, I was overlooked by administration due to financial status. Then, came a life-changing head injury which caused me to miss nearly half of high school and left me with a lasting and might I add “invisible” disability. So, with no help due to lack of privilege as well as simple ignorance on my high school administration’s part, I fought to get to college. When I transferred in to Rutgers in 2014, I literally packed up my car and my life and left my family to move from Virginia to New Jersey and it changed my life. I will always be that girl from a poor family who grew up in a small Virginia town but Rutgers helped me realized that those things don’t define you, they only help you grow. I wouldn’t give up my upbringing for anything because much like Rutgers, it has taught me so much.
Rutgers let me be who I always knew I was. Rutgers helped me find my bliss and a community where anything is possible. Rutgers helped me free my soul. Rutgers has given me opportunities that people “like me” (poor, disabled, and from a place where it is unheard of to leave) don’t usually get because we are overlooked. When I’m here, no one puts me in a box with a label on it like I had been my whole life. Rutgers gave me the opportunity to travel with the National Student Exchange program and find a group of people who love community service as much as I do with Omega Phi Alpha. The Rutgers name has also put me in a position for internships that not many people get. Rutgers has prepared me to enter Graduate and Veterinary School. Rutgers opened my eyes to how people should be treated. Rutgers took my identity from being based on where I was from, to being about who I actually am. Rutgers has changed my life, my future, and my family’s future.