For Jesse White, obtaining his bachelor’s degree was once a dream too good to be true.
“I always felt inadequate because I started my academic career later in life,” said White. “My mother passed away when I was 16 and my sharecropper father only had a fourth grade-level education so I didn’t have a lot of guidance about colleges and universities.”
It was in 2015 when White found himself crying in front of a community college in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn., that he knew he needed a change.
“I cried out to God that if I was meant to go to college, he would make it happen,” he noted. “I wiped my tears, walked into the front door and was accepted on the spot into an associate’s degree program.”
However, life would throw White a few more curveballs, which resulted in his 2018 relocation to Durham, N.C., and a new role as executive assistant in North Carolina Central University (NCCU)’s University College. Dedicated to empowering his students, White temporarily put his academic dreams on hold, but was soon inspired to continue his journey by former NCCU colleagues - William Moultrie, J.D., then interim dean of University College, and Monica Leach, Ed.D., who served as senior associate vice chancellor for enrollment management and academic affairs - and NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye’s ‘Eagle Promise.’ The commitment ensures that if students follow the provided pathway, they will graduate from the university on-time with local and global opportunities, leadership development skills and a position in their chosen field.
“I was so consumed in delivering ‘The Eagle Promise’ to the students I serve, that I forgot this promise could apply to me as well,” said White.
In 2019, he enrolled into the mass communication program with a focus on public relations.
“I chose my major because I am very much interested in protecting the reputation of people and organizations,” he said. “This journey has been empowering and I have enjoyed being a student again. Additionally, I’ve received so many opportunities to attend networking events, conferences and conduct research thanks to professors like Drs. Shauntae Brown-White, Kimberly Moore, Lisa Paulin and Aerial Ellis.”
Following graduation, White plans to pursue a master’s degree in strategic communications at Syracuse University or master’s degree in journalism and media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with the ultimate goal of one day opening his own public relations firm.
“I am thankful that I kept going and know that if my mother could see me now, she would say, ‘you did it, praise God!’”
White’s advice to current and future Eagles?
Pursue your dreams in fear. Knock on the door to potential opportunities and demand it be open. Prioritize your life and be consistent.