Student Success Stories
This page is dedicated to featuring the various interviews that I have done with college students who have overcome difficult life circumstances and paved their own way to success and high achievement. This is meant to provide you with relatable role models whom you can see yourself in and whom you can be inspired by.
Intro to Allison Falls
Meet Allison Falls, a student who is in her last year at Duke University where she is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education. She is on the track to pursue a future vocation as a therapist; in fact, after Duke, she hopes to acquire a Master's in Social Work and/or a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Allison is from the town of Richlands, NC and tells a beautiful story of overcoming her background of being first-generation and coming from a low-income financial circumstance. Topics of discussion between Allison and myself include practicing self awareness and getting to know yourself, being intentional about seeking out and creating community, trusting your gut and intuition to lead you in the direction that is meant for you, navigating and overcoming feelings of intimidation in the classroom, and finding the balance between personal desires and external pressures/expectations.
Intro to Shaiyan Sanchez
Meet Shaiyan Sanchez, a first-generation college student attending Duke University with all of her tuition fully covered; she grew up in Philly and is making a name for herself by not allowing the challenges of coming from a low-income community keep her from carving out her own self-created destiny. Shaiyan discusses the importance of having a healthy and confident mindset, as well as provides her unfiltered perspective on what student life has been like for her at a predominantly white institution.
Intro to Bunmi Omisore
Meet Bunmi Omisore, a first-generation American student who just finished her first year of college at Duke University and is attending college on a full-ride scholarship. She shares her experience navigating the college and scholarship application processes, her takeaways from her freshman year of college, and her advice about what it takes to be GREAT.
Intro to Gerald Akwuole
Join my interview with Gerald, a rising junior studying Physics at the University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill; he is a Nigerian-American--born in Nigeria yet moved to the US in 2004. In this interview, Gerald discusses important topics such as breaking free from the career traditions/precedents set by his family, having flexibility and open-mindedness when pursuing the path (or PATHS, plural) to success, overcoming imposter syndrome and comparing ourselves to others, and having hope and confidence in yourself and your future.
Intro to Tiana Clemons
Tiana is a self-ascribed "military brat" and first-gen college student who is going into her junior year at Duke University. At Duke, she is studying computer science and cultural anthropology; while these disciplines seem unrelated, Tiana has found an interesting way to pursue her passion at the intersection of the two fields. From this interview, you will learn about how to find your passion and a path that works for you, the importance of being inquisitive/curious and asking for help, and how to both face and recover from failure with the right mindset. You will also get to hear Tiana's thoughts on HBCUs vs PWIs.
Intro to Isaiah Hamilton
The man, the myth, the legend: Meet Isaiah Hamilton—a rising senior at Duke University AND Duke's upcoming Student Body President for the 2023-2024 academic school year. Round of applause, please 🙂 Isaiah comes from a multiracial background (he is half-black, half-white...like ME!) and was raised in a single-parent household by his mother. As an extremely active participant of and leader in Duke's student body (he was even the former president of Duke's Black Student Alliance), Isaiah shares great advice about navigating being a first-gen student (on the STEM track), surrounding yourself with inspiring and empowering people, having flexible and innovative thinking when problem-solving, being PERSISTENT in the face of failure as well as in everything you do, and committing yourself to leadership and service opportunities where you can make a meaningful impact.
Intro to David Ntim
David just finished his freshman year at Duke University and is now a rising sophomore. During our chat, he shares his insights regarding community-building, being hard-working and a little bit "neurotic" (which is something we bond over), how imposter syndrome doesn’t go away but it CAN be managed, how failure is NOT permanent, and how life is too short to spend it looking in the rearview (i.e. stuck in the past).
Intro to Jaye Bullock
I met with Jaye, a Duke University alumnus experiencing their first year of adulthood post-undergrad. Jaye interestingly combines their interest in STEM with a passion for creative art/theatre/acting. During this interview, they discuss what to expect when "adulting," how to find your tribe of people with whom you can be your most honest and vulnerable self, and how to assert yourself in a space and share your authentic voice. Jaye and I also talk about the concept of NEVER actually arriving at success because success is something that we should always be growing towards.
Intro to Kaitlyn Lewars
My good friend Kait and I bond over us both being rising seniors at Duke University. Together, we chat about tips and tricks to networking and “shooting your shot,” the benefit of making/finding community and surrounding yourself with good people who care about you, and the necessity of asking for help (including having a tutor).
Intro to Damilola Bankole
Damilola is a rising sophomore at Duke University--currently living in Atlanta, Georgia and raised by two immigrant parents. She was an IB student in high school and sheds light on her transition to a school as rigorous as Duke where she is now studying on the pre-med track while simultaneously pursuing her love of musical theatre. On this note, Damilola gives advice about following your passion and following your heart, or as country-singer Jordan Davis puts it in his song Buy Dirt: "Do what you love but call it work."
Other important topics that Damilola and I touch on are (1) remembering who you are, (2) understanding that everybody’s path is different, (3) strategically marketing yourself and telling your story authentically, (4) being intentional about building relationships with professors in an organic and natural way, (5) finding communities of people who you can be inspired by rather than threatened by, and (6) overcoming internal and external hindrances to our success.
Intro to Jada Hinds
Jada graduated from Duke Undergrad as part of Class of 2023 where she majored in Mechanical engineering and also took classes in business / marketing and management (a second area of passion for her). She is now in the midst of wrapping up a program at Duke's Grad School. She still has a semester left of Grad School, but in the meantime, she just interned for the second time as an "Imagineer" at Walt Disney where she helped design rides. How cool is she!!!
In our conversation, Jada brings up important topics and advice such as (1) trusting yourself, (2) leveraging LinkedIn for networking, (3) having a go-with-the-flow attitude, (4) applying to the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship Program, and (5) being comfortable talking about yourself and sharing your interests / passions with your colleagues.
Intro to Christina Barrow
Christina is in her second year at Duke University where connected with her interests in criminology, she is majoring in Political Science and double minoring in Psychology and African and African American Studies. In addition to excelling as a full-time student, she was also a walk-on to the Duke Varsity Volleyball team her freshman year and is excelling as a full-time athlete. During this interview, Christina imparts wisdom about steering away from this impossible-to-fulfill desire to be perfect, the importance of having a plan but NOT one that is so strict it cannot adapt (e.g. she originally thought she would be a chemistry major when she first came into Duke), and setting realistic standards and goals for yourself.
Intro to Aminata Diagne
Aminata Diagne was a pure joy to talk to. She is a current junior at UNC Chapel Hill who is on the pre-med track and is majoring in Neuroscience while double minoring in Chemistry and Creative Writing. She grew up for the first 12 years of her life being raised in Illinois by her mom—who despite the immense challenge that comes with running a single-parent household, managed to spend a lot of time with Aminata and her siblings, teaching them that school can be fun! In this interview, Aminata discusses topics that include but are not limited to: channeling resilience in the face of family tragedy, dealing with a career path that was forced onto her by her family, and maintaining confidence in your ability to achieve a goal despite enduring failure along the way.
Intro to Mariamawit Abebe
I met with Mariamawit who is a senior at Duke University and is majoring in Computer Science and aspiring to go into a tech career. She is also a part of the Alice M. Baldwin Scholars Program—an all-female leadership cohort meant to inspire women to flourish as leaders and change-agents. Together, Mariamawit and I have a wonderful conversation connecting over topics such as: perfectionism, breaking down barriers, working hard and experiencing a pressure to make your parents hard, defying expectations in an immigrant family, turning things around after failure and being resilient.