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I learned to persevere and gained confidence from my Hampton experience

‘The support system that I’ve been blessed with is overwhelming’

When I first stepped foot on Hampton University’s campus, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea that I would make a lifetime of memories, gain lifelong friends and learn many of life’s lessons.

Frankly, I don’t believe I would have been able to accomplish a majority of everything I have gained if I had gone to any other school besides Hampton. I’m most thankful for the people I have met and developed relationships with. Although one of my biggest lessons has been that not everyone is necessarily in my corner, the support system that I’ve been blessed with is overwhelming.

I never would have thought that I would have friends from every corner of the country who consistently support and show up when the going gets rough. This is what college is all about: going to new places, meeting new people and forming relationships for personal and professional benefit. I’m grateful for every person whose path I’ve crossed, because a lesson and memory have come with each.

If there is anything else I’ve learned at Hampton, it’s “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” As many rejection letters as my peers and I have received, we could have given up. But if we had, we wouldn’t have the opportunities we have now. Persevering beyond “no” while dealing with the stress of school and personal life is an achievement, especially when you are hundreds of miles from home with no family nearby.

My advice to current and future college students is to cherish the time on campus. Cherish your peers, the professors and the opportunities each and every campus provides to help prepare its students for the working world. You never know if you are going to school with the future CEO of a major company, or if your professor knows a CEO who ends up coming to your class as a guest. Professors are extremely resourceful and already have many connections, so it is important to have good relationships with them, too, because they are sharing their knowledge to help the next generation.

Join clubs and organizations that will help you learn practical skills and attend events that cater to career goals. Those organizations can help you gain experience in order to receive internships, which in turn gives exposure to different career fields. A lot of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) hold events where major companies send representatives to look for talent. These are potential employers that students can interact with, ask questions and learn how certain companies operate. That’s how I learned about and gained the opportunity to participate in the Rhoden Fellowship.

The Walt Disney Co. visits Hampton at least twice a year, and during my junior year, The Undefeated’s writer-at-large Bill Rhoden came to campus along with other Disney employees. One of the first things the Rhoden Fellowship taught me, before I even got the fellowship, is to make a good first impression. The summer before my junior year, I interviewed for the fellowship, and although I was not selected, I learned from the process. So, when Mr. Rhoden returned, I made sure I introduced myself and made good conversation. Later, when I applied for the fellowship again, I was able to draw on the conversations I had when I first applied and took advantage of having such high-profile representatives visit campus.

Persistence and good representation were important lessons learned, as I did not allow myself to be discouraged from applying for the fellowship a second time and using resources to make good impressions. Through working for The Undefeated, I have learned that connections are important because lots of people know each other within the industry. Being a team player is also critical to doing well in a professional work environment, as the fellows learned on projects, including articles and podcasts.

Lastly, timeliness is the most important concept to understand, because news can change at any given moment and tardiness shows unreliability in any work environment. I’m very thankful for everything I’ve learned the past four years at Hampton University and this year at The Undefeated. Attending an HBCU has offered me so many opportunities, relationships and memories that I will remember for a long time and that have helped me grow individually and professionally.

I look forward to seeing the success of my peers and where we end up in the future. I hope to see all of us make a positive impact on the sports and journalism industry and go on to teach generations after us, similar to how we were taught. The time I have spent at my HBCU has been priceless, and grateful does not even begin to describe everything I have taken away from my experiences.

Whitney is 2019 Rhoden Fellow and a senior journalism major from Cincinnati. She works at Hampton’s on-campus radio station, WHOV 88.1 FM. She is also a play-by-play commentator for women’s basketball games and a color commentator for football and men’s basketball.