What are some of the things you are most proud of about ECU?
The culture. I love going around campus and seeing different walks of life and talking to people.
I am also proud of the faculty. They have really expressed care for the students, and they will always go the extra mile. There is so much to learn from the professors. Learning from their experience, advice, and expertise has been wonderful. I have amazing mentors in the faculty members who have really helped me. The relationships I have built with my professors have allowed me to minimize my mistakes so I can maximize my life.
Tell me about your best ECU memory.
The night I won the Elite Pirate Award. This award recognizes the top 11 student leaders on campus. Going out for it is crazy because anybody, of all 27,000 students, was eligible for the award. Since there are so many people who can get the award, it is really competitive. You go through this whole weekend of interviews, and I was so nervous. I took one of my dear friends with me and she told me she thought I was going to get the award. And I thought, “No way am I going to be chosen for this award. There are biology majors. People with 4.0 GPAs. People who have written books. People who have published research in their fields.” I did not think there was any way I would win. But, my name was called, and I was so excited. Receiving the award really brought tears to my eyes because is an honor I will never forget. It is a distinction only 11 people a year have received. To say that you are one of the top student leaders on campus right now is something you think will never happen to you. I was most proud to be a Pirate that night.
You have mentioned that your mentorship experiences have changed your life. Tell me about that.
I mentor seven middle school children. I worked with AmeriCorps for two years, and I currently still work with them. I met the students that I mentor through my Project HEART class. These are at-risk children, and most of them do not have a father figure in the home. I just connected with my students. I took them out bowling one day at ECU and ever since then, we have been inseparable.
My students are a big part of the reason why I stand here today. I really make sure that I try to be the person I know they can be so they can look at me and not think that I am a hypocrite. I want to practice what I preach. I try to instill values in them so they will be successful. They are doing very, very well right now. These are kids who when I met them were literally D, maybe C students.
The most important lesson I have learned from this experience is how to be an example. I can’t tell my students, “Oh, you need to go to bed at night so you can wake up early and have a great day,” if I am not doing that myself. This has really stopped me from making decisions that I might have made before I met them because I have them in the back of my mind. I think, “I can’t tell my students not to do this or do that if I am going to do it myself.”
This experience has impacted me so much and the kids don’t really understand. They have told me, “Oh, you have done so much for me.” And I think, “No. You don’t realize how much you all have taught me. You can never even imagine.” Indeed, kids may say that their teacher has impacted them, but the students do not really understand how much they actually impact the teacher.
You mentioned an unforgettable experience you had while you were part of the ECU Marching Pirates. Tell me about that.
I was in the band for two years, and being a part of that was a great way to contribute to the university. The Virginia Tech game was one of the highlights of my time at ECU. We went to Virginia Tech right after the tragedy that occurred there. It was our very first game of the season in the fall of 2007 and it was their first game of the season, as well.
We released balloons for every victim, and speeches were given. ECU also presented Virginia Tech with a donation. It was such an incredible, emotional, touching moment. Everyone was crying, and it was a moment that I will never forget. It felt as though the Pirates had gone to the game to support the people at Virginia Tech who had experienced that awful loss. That day, I really saw that we definitely know how to act outside of Pirate Nation.