June 15, 2017 | by Sonjanita Moore

Why I Do This Work  1.jpg

A good number of Umoja Seminar students I’ve worked with over the years will be 1st Gen college students. They say things like, “No one in this neighborhood goes to college! That’s not what we do!” With Seminar, we have the opportunity to push them beyond their comfort zones and to tell them our stories and the stories of others like them - so it feels more real. It’s about getting them to look beyond the limitations of their environment, family situation, or income level. Education is a way out for a lot of kids, but still some feel guilty leaving family and friends behind. “The people you’re worried about leaving behind will still be here for you,” I remind them. “Besides, you could do so much more for them once you finish school or get a little more experience under your belt. You never know who you’ll meet, what you’ll do or what experiences are out there waiting for you if you don’t try.” 

I’m reminded of a Senior Seminar student who has had to overcome a lot in her personal life. She has high expectations for herself but was ready to give up on college altogether when her plans didn’t work out the way she wanted after Decision Day. Last week, however, the Seminar teacher and I received an email from her with the subject - “OMG! OMG! OMG! You guys look at this!!” The opening paragraph read, “Congratulations! You are now a Jackson State Tiger Class of 2021...and the recipient of the iPad Scholarship...” As great as this email was, I was more excited that she believed in herself again and that she trusted us enough to share her journey with us.

 I do this work because I want kids to know that their dreams ARE achievable, that it’s okay to be nervous about life beyond their block and that Seminar is a space where they can map out a plan for their lives. Whether a student chooses a college, military or to enter the workforce after high school, I hope that I've equipped them with enough tools to not only transform their own lives but to come back and transform their communities, as well.