Kevin Moye | Managing Editor
Twenty-five years ago, Nas forever changed the hip-hop world with his debut album “Illmatic”. The critically acclaimed album featured one of my favorite songs: “The World Is Yours”.
At the start of every school year, I am reminded of this song when realizing our place. Given its ever-increasing popularity, many students have begun to take college for granted; however, we should all view our college experience as incredibly seminal moments in our lives. Not only does it allow us to take agency over our futures, but it also gives students the chance to connect with themselves in ways which might otherwise be unavailable.
Of the United States population, only about 1/3 of our citizens boast a college degree. When looking at minority populations the image becomes even more astounding. Black and Hispanic populations in the US have significantly lower rates than the national average at 22.5% and 15.5%, respectively.
Minorities, in particular, have the most to gain from our college experience as it has long been touted as one of the strongest methods of fighting racial inequality. Former President Barack Obama had this to say about education in a speech he gave to NAACP: “There is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education,” Obama said.
And there is a degree of merit to such claims. Completion of four-year college programs has shown to be one of the leading drivers behind social mobility. Researchers at Pew found that of children born into the lowest economic quintile, 90% of them who earned four-year degrees eventually ascended out of the bottom quintile.
College should also serve as a time to truly explore your identity. For most coming into college, this will be the first time you live independently. With that comes much responsibility, but also the freedom to live how you choose.
For minorities, I would particularly recommend using college as a way to explore the many facets in which your identity intersects with the world around you. Pick up a copy of the Nubian Message, connect with multicultural student organizations, or go to the various diversity events sponsored by the university. These are just a brief sample of the many ways students can foster deeper understandings of their own identities.
Our time at NC State will also offer us something that most of us were sadly deprived of in high school: the chance to interact with other minority students regularly. The specter of racism continues to haunt the education system in a multitude of ways. One of the ways in which it has manifested has been through the racial divide that is ever-present in advanced courses.
Classes within the Advanced Placement (AP) and the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculums have the unintended effect of creating de facto segregation in otherwise integrated schools. Most of us at NC State are likely well-acquainted with these courses as they were the standard for being a competitive applicant. College provides us now with the time to finally interact with students of similar identities to ourselves on a much greater scale than what our K-12 educations ever provided.
At State, you should not only use your time connecting with the community’s closest to your identity, but you should also take the time to enhance your cultural competency by embracing cultures outside of your own. Whether that be through participating in forums about different communities, celebrating another group’s heritage month or simply getting to know fellow students that represent other identities – these events are the keys to maximizing the benefits one can receive by going to college.
The world can truly be yours if you allow yourself to interact with the abundance of opportunities that college has to offer. NC State provides the educational framework needed for us to gain access to social mobility, but it is ultimately up to us students to fully take advantage of the diverse resources that provide the framework for our own personal development.