Vision of a former slave, Lewis Adams, cultivated by Booker T. Washington, and currently stands at number four in ranking as a top Historical Black College and University, Tuskegee University is truly and will always be the pride of the swift growing south. Known for its paramount programs, Tuskegee Institute has produced the nation’s top engineers, behavioral health experts, agriculture specialist and health professionals. I had the opportunity to catch up with four recent graduates who took up various disciplines. Though from different walks of life and stages post-graduation, each graduate gives credit to Tuskegee for making them the person they are today.
Elexis C. Neal, a native of Atlanta, Georgia recently obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. Although she intends on eventually earning her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at her alma mater, she will enroll at the University of Georgia in the spring of 2018 to secure a Master’s degree in Agribusiness. In the meantime, she currently interns with the United States Department of Agriculture in the Department of Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. When asked what ‘Skegee Taught Her’, she stated, “This environment allowed my mind to stay open to the possibilities and steps I needed to take to acquire my future career goals. This university taught me to embrace my individuality and truly find myself while considering the personalities and viewpoints of others.” Elexis Neal plans to stay connected to Tuskegee and give back through the Dekalb County Tuskegee Alumni Club in Atlanta, Georgia and aid Dr. Barr in the Tuskegee University ‘Golden Voices’ concert choir.
“There is an indescribable sense of pride and empowerment in achieving such a goal as graduating from Tuskegee”, said Shantara Belnavis, B.S. in Psychology and Class of 2017 from Long Beach, California. As the second alumni I got to catch up with, Shantara describes her post graduation to be nerve racking, but she constantly reminds herself to take things day by day and that there is nothing short of greatness to come. Her journey at “Skegeeville” taught her the significance of growth, trusting GOD, and herself. She is indeed applying the lessons learned as she anxiously awaits her next move. One thing for certain is that Miss Belnavis will stay connected through “Homecoming, baby”, maintaining contact with her favorite teachers, and investing in the choir.
Currently serving as a team lead for Perdue Farms in Perry, Georgia, life post Tuskegee for Taurus Thompson has been great. A native of Oakland, California and a two year graduate in Animal Science/Business, Taurus could be considered outstanding by many. He presumes that Tuskegee helped him grow into a distinguished young gentleman. Through Tuskegee, Mr. Thompson learned the significance of independent survival. As a final word, he said, “I will always stay in the loop[connected]of what's going on by participating in alumni outreach. Not to mention homecoming whenever I can go.”
“I am actively seeking employment as a master's level social worker in conjunction with preparing to sit for the state licensure exam to become a Licensed Master's Social Worker(LMSW)”, said Tanaya Williams, Class of 2016. Shortly after graduating, TaNaya participated in the accelerated masters program at Alabama A&M University based on the strength and knowledge learned at Mother Tuskegee. She, Mother Tuskegee, has also shown TaNaya the enormous family of alumni that will assist and encourage whenever their paths cross. Miss Williams plans to stay connected through social media, attending homecoming as well as any events near Mobile, and most importantly giving back once she lands her career job!
As you can see, Tuskegee University has had the opportunity to mold and cultivate the best and brightest. These recent graduates could of taken their talents anywhere else, but decided to fulfill their collegiate career in one of the most rural areas in the deep south. The unique stories of these four recent graduates signify that the sleepless nights or far distances away from home are worth anything to gain a great education. May those who read this article see the significance of higher learning and the featured graduates of this article realize that the best is yet to come!
Writer: Melody N. Wilson
Elexis Neal, Atlanta, Georgia
Shantara Belnavis, Long Beach, California
Taurus Thompson, Oakland, California
Tanaya Williams, Mobile, Alabama