A Rally Cry for Diverse Learners Heading to College

Rise Up My Fellow Jackhammers and Set Your Sights on the Stairs that Rise Before You.

The commencement of a new college year is upon us and the call to those who challenge the paradigm of these institutions is louder now than it ever has been. I call upon you, my fellow jackhammer, to rise up and heed the call of those diverse learners who have paved the way to continue your noble assail to remove each impending stair before you.

You have proven yourself to be of great mind, of endless will, and unyielding audacity to meet each staircase with conviction and now this is your moment to lay the ramps for those who will follow in your footsteps. These are the same stairs that you have confronted your whole life, they represent the same obstacles, the same challenges, and the same inequitable societal interaction between access and opportunity. You will encounter the same poorly grounded rationalization of what is normal, who is normal, and how normal justifies the stairs before you.

Hold fast to your desires and reach for what is yours to take.

With diversity as your presumption of normality, it is your time remove the stairs, construct your ramps, and march upward toward the opportunities that you have the inherent right to access. Our strategy will be simple, but arduous. Our efforts will be exhausting with frequent frustration, but our sights will be set on the challenges that lead to the glory of our self-determined paths. Our plan will incorporate three important strategies: 1) set your sights high, 2) work tirelessly to achieve your objectives no matter the obstacle, and 3) be the exemplar of your mission.

Set your sights high. You have been told that there are limits to what you can do. Yet, each time you have surprised those around you. You have traveled further than anyone had predicted. You’ve brought perspective to those who had doubted you. And, you have shown what true courage and resilience embodies. This is not your time to shy away from the challenging road in front of you. It is not time to change the elevation of the mountain you want to climb. Hold fast to your desires and reach for what is yours to take. Be unwavering in your commitment to realize your dreams. You will continue to inspire and pave the ramp to the top for those who follow you. 

Wear each stumble as a badge and not a scar.

Work tirelessly. Although you may encounter some ramps in your journey, they will not be sufficient to rely on alone. Your journey will be difficult. You will have to work harder, longer, wiser, and more persistently than those you encounter. You will have to question standards, challenge norms, and be willing to compromise. When you stumble, you must get up and try again with more rigor or find a path that suits you better. You must learn from those stumbles, and wear each one as a badge and not a scar. You must never give up.

Be the exemplar. Being a crusader of equity comes with grave responsibilities. You must defy stereotypes and be the change that you are striving for. The path toward progress comes in the example that you provide those that question your mission. There are no excuses. Your failures and successes will either be of your own culpability or they will make evident where you must work to construct a ramp. Determining to what extent the combination of these factors has led to the outcome will take self-awareness and virtuous honesty. Regardless, it is your responsibility alone to adjust your path and mission to continue your path upward and onward. You must be the example of the success you believe you can achieve.

For ramps aren’t built with wrath, they are built with valor.

By setting your sights high, working tirelessly, and being the exemplar you will leave ramps behind each step you take. For ramps aren’t built with wrath, they are built with valor. The journey before you will not be easy, but your progress will be glorious. You will have traveled further than most and will be rewarded with a view that will be your own. Yet, you will have forged a path for all to enjoy. Rise up my fellow jackhammers and set your sights at the stairs that rise before you.

-Dr. Perry LaRoque is Founder and President of Mansfield Hall, a residential college support program for diverse learners in Madison, WI and Burlington, VT, and believes you can do it.