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(photo caption: Marlon Mitchell pictured with his laptop.)

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(photo caption: Yurlee Tinsley with his computer.)

On the first Saturday this year, I was lucky enough to meet two delightful young men, natives of Southwest DC and the recipients of scholarships funded by Friends of Southwest DC and subsequently awarded through SWNA.

Marlon Mitchell attends Kent State University where he is majoring in Digital Communication.  Yurlee Tinsley attends South Carolina State University where he is majoring in Business Management.

We met at the Starbucks inside Safeway on 4th Street. I started by asking them what they had been looking for in choosing a university. Mr. Tinsley answered immediately: “something different.” He continued by saying he had found exactly what he was looking for. The culture is more laid back, more easygoing, and friendlier. Mr. Mitchell agreed and added that he had also found something very different and was also enjoying the differences he discovered.

This led to asking the number of students on each campus. The answers were quite striking: Mr. Tinsley guessed that there were between 3,000 and 4,000 students at SCSU. Mr. Mitchell said that Kent State has around 35,000 students and is growing fast.

Each of these young men has faced challenging choices in their college years and has handled them, it seemed to me, with ease and maturity. Mr. Tinsley said that when he first started at SC State, he got caught up in the social life of the college and did not focus on the academics as much as he needed to. After joining Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity, he found a platform where he could start to set goals and find his own way. He has subsequently joined the National Association of Black Accountants and the Society of Human Resources Management. Through these contacts as well as through mentors, Mr. Tinsley has found summer internship opportunities. Last summer, he was in a position to write a template for guidelines for the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He has decided to stay at SC State for what will be his fifth year in order to add a Human Resources minor to his resume.

On the other hand, Mr. Mitchell found a haven in baseball, a sport he clearly loves. He also struggled to keep up his grades, but for him it was the grueling schedule of a true student athlete, a very difficult task; the team and athletic excellence require many hours of practice, drills, and workouts. Even summers were filled with baseball as well as holding a job – a very challenging life, for sure. So Mr. Mitchell has decided to wait for baseball, and his grades have demonstrated that commitment. He, too, is redirecting his major to include more studies in cyber security. As with Mr. Tinsley, this may require some extra time.

Our conversation covered other topics. I was interested to learn that both men had found a diverse environment on their campuses with both universities having relatively large foreign populations. We also had an interesting exchange about fraternities. Both expressed concerns over the reputation for bad behavior that surrounds fraternities these days. Obviously, Yurlee Tinsley has had a very rewarding experience with the fraternities he has joined. Marlon Mitchell has decided to avoid joining a Greek organization, the reputation of fraternities on the Kent campus being all but positive. I wondered how much the differences have to do with the sizes of the campuses.

These fine young men negotiated my questions and these difficulties with great confidence. We can only wish them success in the years ahead, with thanks for an interesting hour spent in Starbucks. It is a good feeling to be a small part of their success through the work of Friends of SWDC.

For further information, to apply for a grant, and/or to donate, please visit the website at  www.FriendsofSWDC.org or contact Coralie Farlee, President, at FriendsSWDC@yahoo.com or 202-554-4407.

By: Cecilie Jones

Board member, Friends of Southwest DC

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