College Graduation Series
Niadiquay Everette is a PROUD first-generation college student. She is graduating from UNC Chapel Hill this spring with her M.A. in Sociology and a concentration in women’s and genders studies. The thing that ensures that she wakes up each morning is her passion for education equity. She believes that every student, regardless of the conditions they grow up in, deserves a quality education, as well as the tools and support system to ensure that this becomes a reality.
How do you share your brilliance?
I am a recipient of Student U’s Be The Change scholarship. I am also a recipient of the Gilman study abroad scholarship. While on campus I had the joy of being a member of Ebony Readers Onyx Theater (EROT), a spoken work group under the Black Student Movement, through which I learned to embrace being on a stage and using my voice. I served as the service leadership chair of Beta Nu Theta service fraternity. I have served as a Student U Summer Academy science teacher for two years and an after school tutor. I also had the honor of serving as the 2018 Miss Omega Psi Phi pageant queen, as I used my service project to give back to Urban Ministries of Durham.
What do you want to be true in the world? Or what is your vision for Durham?
I envision a world where children are given equal opportunity to achieve their dreams. It is a world where the color of their skin does not dictate what type of education they receive and does not determine the limitations of their dreams. It is a place where Black and brown children are confident in their beautiful skin and in the fact that they too have the ability and competence to achieve whatever they desire in this world. It is one where everyone, including children are allowed to discover and be their authentic selves without fear of rejection.
What is your role in that vision? Who do you want to be?
I believe that I was placed on this earth to serve. Honestly, I am not completely sure in what specific capacity I am supposed to contribute to this vision, but how do you ever know for sure until you take a leap of faith? I vow to take this leap with my head held high! I have chosen to dedicate my professional journey to education, specifically teaching. I desire to be an inspiration to my future students. I want to gain enough experience to eventually take my passion, education and experience to the next level of impact. I will make my vision come to fruition by one day serving in the education policy world and either owning and/or running a nonprofit that caters to my vision of the world for children. Starting a school has also crossed my mind, but again I have no concrete plans as to how I want my journey to unfold. I am here for the growth and the journey!
What challenges or obstacles have you or must you overcome to continue your journey to realize your dream/vision?
I have overcome a number of challenges along my journey. The challenge that has really shaped my life and my career journey is my academic struggle at my university. My sophomore year, I was on the verge of expulsion due to my terrible academic performance. Looking in the mirror, I realized that if rock bottom was a thing, I had reached it for the first time in my life. I knew that I was struggling with my classes and my major. Instead of reaching out for help, I struggled in silence, convinced that I could do everything on my own, as I had assumed I had done for most of my life. An amazing woman who happened to be my work study manager reached out to me and literally changed my life. She helped me explore what my passions were and helped me develop concrete action steps to achieve those goals. She instilled confidence in me at a time where everything, and I mean everything in my life seemed to be failing. This moment taught me the importance of mentorship and suffering “out loud.” I learned to reach out when I needed help and to be confident in my failures. I learned the art of determination, grit and resiliency. The next semester I landed on the Dean’s list with a GPA above a 3.0. I vowed to stop letting fear dictate my life and my academic performance. Ever since then, my life went shooting up into this reality that I could have never imagined for myself in the midst of that failure.
What core values guide you on your journey?
Honestly, I think all of Student U’s core values have served as pinpoints for me on my journey. It was with my immersion in this program that I realized that my dreams were not unattainable. They were just enough. It was with my immersion in this program that I begin to spread my wings and step outside of my comfort zone. I started to feel okay with being myself. I am a reflective person, so I am constantly trying to understand myself and figure out ways I can improve. I never want to be comfortable with any inch of mediocrity in my body. I do not want to grow old and regret not doing more or trying harder to fulfill my dreams because if I do not push myself, my presence will be a disservice to my future students and communities I desire to serve. Dreaming fearlessly without apology and a constant hunger to grow has been the guiding light to my journey.
In the grand scheme of things why do you believe it is important you succeed?
I think success is discovering your purpose and doing whatever it takes to manifest this purpose into something bigger than yourself. It is important to succeed in this sense because it teaches you the art of hard work, grit and resiliency. The journey to success makes you a stronger, more fulfilled person. If you quit before you arrive at the finish line, you will not only be doing yourself a disservice, but the lives you were supposed to touch and be a part of may very well go untouched because you did not tap into the potential God gave solely to you to manifest. I constantly remind myself that my life is not just my own to live. My experiences are supposed to be shared with others. My love and wisdom is supposed to be shared with others. We must do the hard work so that we can pass it forward.
Who has/is helping you on your journey? Do you have a mentor? How has Student U been part of your journey?
My work study manager has been a crucial influence in my life. She is like my second mother. As I mentioned above, she helped me discover my passions and develop confidence in my ability to succeed. Student U has played a major role in this development as well. Student U gave me the platform to develop my communication and leadership skills as early as high school. There is always a sense of your value when working with Student U. Their confidence in me helped develop my confidence within myself. Committing to teaching during the summers helped develop my confidence in passing knowledge forward and building relationships. I remember in high school vowing to never become a teacher. This attitude did not change until Student U introduced me to the joy of being an agent of change in the classroom. Student U is a major part of the reason I have committed my life to education!
What is your plan to achieve your dream/vision? What steps have you already taken? What steps are next?
My plan to achieve my dreams is to never settle for mediocrity. My first action step is to get my M.S. in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University. My next step is to become a teacher in D.C. I plan to teach in D.C. for at least four years. Throughout this journey, I will become involved in the D.C. community, serving in any way that I can. I will be “career soul-searching” along this journey and hopefully meeting people who inspire and help me shape my dreams into a concrete reality. I plan to surround myself by people with similar vision and a hunger to be successful.
When you succeed how do you hope your life will be different? How will other’s lives be different?
My version of my own success is one where I am in a career that feeds me and feeds others. I have to be moving in purpose. It is also me being completely confident in my own ability and public speaking skills. It is me heavily involved as an activist in whatever community I am apart. When I reach this point in my journey, my life will be more fulfilled and those around me will feel joy, confidence and determination.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger peers? How do you hope to help them succeed?
To my younger peers, you are enough. You were always enough. You will always be enough. Do not EVER let anyone tell you that you are not. You were born with every tool you need to succeed. You just have to do the work to manifest those gifts and to make your dreams become a reality. You are not average and should never settle for such. Dream big and do not apologize for it. If people don’t believe in those dreams, it is not your problem. Your dreams are not for them to understand. If you have to move alone to accomplish your dreams, do that. If you have to lose people who are close to you to accomplish your dreams, do that. It is bigger than you. There are people in your future who are depending on you to discover your best self in the now. Never give up. Keep going. Keep growing and most importantly, ENJOY YOUR JOURNEY!