From Students To Staff: A Summer Of Transition

Angelica Cohen,  Junior Internship Coordinator and Translator/Interpreter

For the past 8 years Student U has become not only a support system but it has also become by home and a place I hold close dearly in my heart. I can still remember the 6th grade version of me. Small, long hair, glasses, and a passion for learning new things. Not many of my other friends shared the same passion as I did and many times I felt like an outsider. In the 3 short years of being in the Middle School program Student U helped me build a foundation of confidence, core values, and faith to make the world a better place. It’s also been the place where I’ve met the truest of friends.

The years have gone by quickly and I have become a part of a staff of wonderful people in Durham who encourage students to dream up anything without the fear of being told that their dream is too big or too useless. Being an Intern Coordinator and Translator/Interpreter has definitely brought it’s fair share of challenges- the pressure of living up to high expectations, and having people constantly telling you how proud they are- your biggest fear is to have the spotlight and make a mistake. But it has also brought some of the most amazing memories and values that have and will help me with all situations I will face in my future.

I’ve grown with this community that selflessly gives to the young students a new hope to become someone that can change the world around us. The transition from Student to Staff Member has been truly a magical experience and one that will forever shape how I carry myself throughout life.

Devin Autry, Teacher

I never realized how fast this moment would come. It feels like just yesterday I was stepping into Student U for the first time.

Walking on to a new campus, being new to teaching, and being new to all of the foreign faces around the campus that I had not been acquainted with in my previous 7 years at student U, I felt almost like a stranger in my own home. I was unsure of what people would expect from me and what impact I would have on the student u community in my new role as a teacher.

However the journey and adventures that I experienced this summer were truly unforgettable. I feel privileged to have given back to the community that I was given the privilege of being apart of.


Casey Barr-Rios, Executive Assistant  

“I don’t think it really hit me that I have made a full circle of transforming from a student to a staff member until this Monday.”

These are the words I expressed at my second full-time staff meeting…. FULL-TIME STAFF MEETING. I joined the Joy to the World tunnel on Monday morning as we welcomed back our students for summer programming. I couldn’t help but to be overwhelmed with all of the memories I had as a student at Student U. I remember the times when I absolutely hated Joy to the World and ran away trying to dodge going through the tunnel. I remember being the student walking through the halls and looking at my energetic teachers like they were the craziest people I had ever met. I remember being the student responding with one word answers or just staring at whoever asked “How’s your day going?”

But I also remember being that student that just couldn’t let go of Student U. It was something about these crazy, energetic human beings that attracted me. It was something about them constantly, at that time, annoying me with a million questions that made me feel like they actually cared what came out of my mind. I couldn’t believe that now I was screaming on top of my lungs a song that I hated and ran from so much just a couple of years ago. The reaction from students that I had classes with and students that I built a relationship with working at YRP, was completely crazy to me. Some students literally walked past me not realizing who I was. Others came up telling me how I had turned into “one of them.”

I like to think of the “one of them” statement as the official indictment into completing the “full circle.” I always wondered what my goal or purpose of being in this program was. Yes, it provided me with great resources and opportunities that helped me become college bound. But, honestly, I struggled with understanding my role in this program. I think this is the beginning of what my role is meant to be at Student U.

To my graduating class and the future graduating classes after me, turning into “one of them” isn’t such a bad thing after all. I challenge you all to take a step into completing the full circle with me whether it’s volunteering, teaching, interning, or becoming a full time employee. Once you step into the other side there’s no turning back. You may not see yourself there now, but just try it out. All of the dreams and goals and aspirations these people want for Student U is far more than just an addiction. It becomes a part of your everyday life and consumes you. You find yourself snapping with your friends, becoming comfortable in being the person to break the ice outside of Student U. It empowers you to reflect Student U core values wherever you are. Are you ready to complete the full circle?

Take a second and reflect on this thought.

Who knows, one of us could be the Executive Director of this place years from now.



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