S is a student that is almost impossible not to like. Friendly, responsive (mostly), easy to talk to, and genuinely excited to have College Possible in his life. Like most freshman, the beginning of S’s college experience was towing the line in terms of where he should best spend his time, especially living in the dorms in a school as big as UWM. Either way, he loved college life. Then, almost out of nowhere, he experienced two different discrimination cases, one from an outspoken student and one from campus security. I offered my support in anything he needed, whatever that might mean. He did a good job of pursuing some kind of justice for what he had experienced and set up a meeting with the dean of students on his own.
Even so, I thought it would be best to meet S in person to see how he was doing and help with an unrelated financial aid issue. I could tell as we texted and from his Facebook posts that things were not going as well as one would hope, especially seeing how much he enjoyed college before. When we met up that day he looked tired and had his hood up. He was not his normal enthusiastic self and was soft-spoken. After going over the financial aid stuff and setting up an appointment with the office, we sat down to talk about how he was feeling about everything. He felt like an outcast from the student body and from his professors who he felt like were not giving him their full support simply because he’s black. I made it clear that I could not pretend to comprehend what he was going through, but I was able to let him know what I saw in him what I see in practically every College Possible student.
I told S that as a part of College Possible, he was included in the group of people I consider to be some of the most determined, passionate, and dedicated individuals I have ever met. He was facing lots of challenges, yes, but I believed that he could overcome them and told him to “be the best version” of himself to get to where he wants to go. After that I swear his eyes actually lit up. I think that was the moment that S knew he could trust me, although not that he couldn’t before. Shortly after we parted ways I got a text saying “Thanks man, nice knowing you. Appreciate everything.”
The rest of the semester was still pretty rocky for S and his future is a little uncertain for the coming year, especially with his passion for creating music becoming more of a priority for him. Even so, I trust he’ll get to where he wants to be. We work with truly incredible students who sometimes need to be told that they are able to succeed in life, even if the odds are stacked against them. I think S absolutely needed that, and I look forward to working with him for the rest of the year.