What makes you proud to be a Pirate?
They give everyone a chance. ECU is a school that prides itself on providing access to high quality education to people that may not have that access otherwise. There is an infrastructure that allows students from groups that traditionally haven't done well in college to thrive. There are programs like Project STEPP, which has a better than average success rate of attrition for students with learning disabilities. I also mentor with the African American Male Mentoring Program (AAMMP). Through involvement with the program, we have seen a significant improvement in the students’ GPAs. That support system and those opportunities are available right here at ECU.
Tell me more about your work with Project STEPP.
I have worked for Project STEPP in some capacity for the past three semesters; it’s a transition program for students with learning disabilities. These are the kids that people might have told, “Oh, you have a learning disability, so you are never going to be successful.” But, they have proved those people wrong! I have seen really high GPAs, 3.8 and 4.0. Some of the best and brightest students I have met have been a part of this program. I have watched these students mature and improve their study skills and their grades. I have seen students who would have never visited the library before come in on Saturdays to study. I am really proud of the program and the work they do. Being a part of this program has shown me that in the future, I want to continue to be involved in the university and community at large.
What are your plans for the future?
I won a National Science Foundation Fellowship, and starting June 1, I will be pursuing my PhD in statistics at Purdue University. After that, I hope to become a college professor.
Tell me more about the fellowship and how you feel.
When I applied to Purdue, I received a fellowship from the university to study. A few weeks ago, I found out that I also won a fellowship through the National Science Foundation. Between the two fellowships, I have seven years guaranteed funding for school. I really appreciate this opportunity! I know many people who are in graduate school and are working or tutoring to earn extra income, and they are really struggling. With the fellowships, I won’t have to worry about that while I am in school.
Is there anything else you think people should know about you?
I grew up in abject poverty, with eight or nine people in two-bedroom apartments. I have moved a ton of times. I don’t have any childhood pictures of me or pictures of my parents because we were evicted so many times, and all of those things were lost in moves. I just want people to know that you can fail because of your circumstances and no one would blame you, but you can also succeed despite your circumstances. It’s a choice you have to make. There has got to be a point where you say, “Enough is enough. I am not comfortable with my life, and I need to do more.” Define success for yourself and go out there and get it. I came from very dire circumstances and now I am going to get my PhD.
I would also like to thank my wife, Dr. Ornella Potter. I am eternally indebted to her for all of her support. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for my wife. I love her and she has done so much for me.