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HBCU Graduations

My family is rooted in black colleges and now I am, too

I found my passion as a journalist at Hampton University

My entire family is rooted in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

When my family could attend college, my grandparents flocked to North Carolina Central University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Fayetteville State University. My parents followed suit, attending Hampton University and N.C. A&T. That left the HBCU legacy up to me. And after attending predominantly white schools for all of K-12, I decided it was time for a breath of fresh air.

I followed my father’s footsteps to Hampton, and four years later, I can finally say that I understand the HBCU experience. It means connecting with young black folks from all around the world, blossoming, creating memories that will last a lifetime and building foundational steps for their desired profession.

I’ll miss “Hampton Holidays.” They’re events such as homecoming, “12-2” day parties and 100 days, when everyone celebrates the seniors having 100 days until graduation. There’s a collective understanding between students and faculty that these days are meant for nothing but having a good time (and being safe while doing so). Every day becomes a fashion show, and the right song can turn sidewalks into block parties. It’s prime-time college life at its finest.

Outside of the classic events, my greatest memory from college was earning professional journalism experience. I entered journalism school with nothing but an interest in writing. I’m leaving with bylines at ESPN’s The Undefeated and Bloomberg, with articles also being syndicated by The Boston Globe and Time magazine. All of this has been planned by God and manifested by me.

My last stop before entering the professional workforce was at The Undefeated through the Rhoden Fellowship. My time has taught me patience. In the classroom, my classmates and I are schooled that the pace of news doesn’t ever slow down. This is true, but The Undefeated has shown me how to decelerate and gather even more details that I may have missed in the past. And when you’re trying to be the best storyteller possible, all teaching helps improve your craft.

I’ve learned a lot in college. Many of the lessons I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. But in the midst of the ongoing global pandemic, I didn’t get a traditional ending to my senior year, so the final teaching hits home the most. The lesson is that closure is a figment of our imagination. It’s something that we tell ourselves we need before moving on. The fact is, life never stops moving. We don’t always get a chance to write happy endings to all of our chapters. Some end without a proper conclusion. The absence of an expected ending serves as a message to treat every moment like a prized possession and not meaningless matter.

Nonetheless, there are three words of advice I’d give to my classmates and to incoming classes. The first is to understand that no one is in control of your college experience but you. Once your parents or guardians drop you off, the world is your oyster. You get to decide how you spend your time. However you do it, know that you don’t get those four years back.

Treat people right and make them feel appreciated, the rest will take care of itself.

I’d also encourage you to become obsessed with finding your passion. Passionately working never feels like work, it feels like fun. You lose track of time, you forget things you have to do and you get lost in the art of improving. Before you know it, you’re doing what you love and you feel as free as the wind.

My final piece of advice would be to treat everyone the same. Relationships are going to be the heart of your college experience. Things like campus popularity and clout are temporary; they don’t outweigh professional ties. You never know where people will end up. It doesn’t matter, because there are a variety of roads to success. Treating one person better than another because they appear to be succeeding in the current moment could cost you an opportunity down the line. In the words of the legendary Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Treat people right and make them feel appreciated, the rest will take care of itself.

I will admit that entering journalism at a time of job cuts and uncertainty is nerve-racking. But all I’ve ever done is work hard, build relationships and trust the process. And if I’ve gotten this far, why would I abandon it now? I won’t; there will always be a need for journalists and storytellers.

Randall is a 2019 Rhoden Fellow and a senior journalism and communications major from outside of Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. He is a former Bloomberg intern and is the sports editor for the Hampton Script. He 100% believes that “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is the greatest cartoon of all time.