By Haley Costen
Lisa Smith McQueenie welcomed familiar and new faces Tuesday night at the 8th Annual Colors of Success event.
Presented by Like Minds, the event celebrated the accomplishments of students of all races and backgrounds, and encouraged students to get involved on campus.
McQueenie also acknowledged that the dozens gathered in the Linda K. Paresky Center were not only traditional undergraduate students, but Dix Scholars, faculty, staff, and graduate students.
The event was filled with bonding exercises, and encouraging words from student leaders, faculty, and staff. The most prevalent themes were to find a mentor and to get involved on campus.
“Really get involved in what your passion is,” Renee Gadsen, assistant director of Multicultural Recruitment said in a video from where she’s recruiting in Georgia. “Let your voice be heard.”
LaShawn Holloway seemed a perfect model of Gadsen’s advice. Before introducing Professor Kristin Nicole Dukes, the student leader named nearly a dozen leadership roles she’s held on campus in Girls LEAP, the Simmons Concert Choir, the Black Student Organization, Gospel Choir, FACES, Campus Conversations on Race, and others. She also spoke about how Dukes had been a mentor to her.
“I got to college and realized I was just another black student,” Dukes said to a hushed crowd.
She’d just finished explaining that she graduated fifth in her high school class and was the number one African American student to have graduated from her small Texas high school at the time. Yet, she was one of only 54 black students in a freshman class of 800 at Rice University.
Dukes spoke about the importance of having a network and a safety net to rely on, as well as people who knew that there was promise in her even when she didn’t.
Part of her success was that she had a group at her university much like Colors of Success to encourage her growth.
Dukes reflected that her high school life was planned and certain, but that college was a completely different experience.
“College is a new game. You create your own path,” she said.
She encouraged people to take advantage of the uncertainties of college life.
“Sit in the uncertainty. Enjoy it.”
Other student leaders such as Lindsey Johnson and Kate Connolly read their own pieces of advice. Zenaida Peterson read a spoken word piece about racism.
“I think it’s really important to gather people of color,” Peterson said. “It’s important they see each other and respond.”
McQueenie invited everyone in the audience to give advice to each other and to new students.
“Early engagement is critical,” Dean of Student Life Sarah Neill said. “Also, finding a mentor.”
Neill added that some of the best resources at the college are the students themselves.
Kyree Jones saw a difference in past Colors of Success events.
“It’s definitely grown student-wide,” Jones said.