Madysan Foltz OMA’s Digital Media Intern S.I. Newhouse School of Publication Communications, Magazine Journalism HOW HAS SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY IMPACTED YOU? "Syracuse University built me into a better version of myself. By tearing me down to some of my lowest levels and building me up higher than I ever thought imaginable, SU taught me strength, humility, work ethic, and the true meaning of success. I am also forever grateful of the people it put in my corner."
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, International Relations
Madysan Foltz OMA’s Digital Media Intern
S.I. Newhouse School of Publication Communications, Magazine Journalism
HOW HAS SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY IMPACTED YOU?
"Syracuse University built me into a better version of myself. By tearing me down to some of my lowest levels and building me up higher than I ever thought imaginable, SU taught me strength, humility, work ethic, and the true meaning of success. I am also forever grateful of the people it put in my corner."
Name: David L. Jackson
Major: History and Secondary Education
Frequent OMA Visitor
Name: David L. Jackson
Major: History and Secondary Education
Frequent OMA Visitor
David L. Jackson isn’t a name you can easily forget at Syracuse University. A junior history and secondary education major, David is on a path to instill change within the education sector of his hometown in Miami-Dade County, Florida. He’s hyper-involved within the SU and surrounding communities, splitting his time between community outreach initiatives through Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Neighborhood Youth Recreation Program (NYRP), and through numerous speaking engagements around campus. Additionally, he is a former president of SU’s Student African-American Society (SAS) and a co-founder of Project G.R.I.N.D. (Greatness Resides in Nonstop Dedication).
With a schedule like that, it’d only make sense that he’d need a place on campus to relax, recharge, and relate. That place just so happens to be the OMA office. “...OMA is my space to feel comfortable and know that I have somewhere where I can talk freely and not be judged by the things I’m saying, the clothes I’m wearing, the style of my hair, or the gold teeth,” he says laughing. “Everybody’s real empathetic, and at times sympathetic, when you need them to be.”
The warm vibes in there, being able to feel at home. Everybody’s really positive. ...
The first time I went there I saw there were cookies on the table, so I went in and then saw the sign “Office of Multicultural Affairs.” So I walked in, I went straight into the back and then just started introducing myself. I introduced myself to Valerie first, then Cedric, then Dr. D, then I just became a regular after that. Everybody was so home-y.
For the most part, I think that to know that one, you have a place to go and vent. On campus we deal with this idea of creating a safe space, but that space could be anywhere and it takes several forms. I think it’s extremely amazing that OMA is kind of my space to feel comfortable and know that I have somewhere where I can talk freely and not be judged by the things I’m saying, the clothes I’m wearing, the style of my hair, or the gold teeth. (laughs) Everybody’s real empathetic, and at times sympathetic, when you need them to be.
That balances with my scholarly work. That’s my part — I think everybody needs that shoulder to cry on sometimes, and OMA is that shoulder.
The whole office has opened my eyes to the other side of what multicultural actually means. I know for me, coming out of the intercity of Dade where everybody looks exactly the same, you’re only used to a single story. A single story meaning you’re only used to one thing, and you’re only used to one thing being told one way. But I think in OMA, being able to see different people come together from different places, different shapes and sizes and forms, you’re able to tell a story with multiple lenses and multiple outlets.
OMA, for me, has helped me be more open to my surroundings and be more accepting to what is going on. And understanding people aren’t just one thing.
There’s been a couple times. When I first joined my fraternity — I went over in November of 2014, and I became President in December rapidly. I remember I was so overwhelmed because I had to balance school, work, community service, and now I had to handle the business side of the fraternity, making sure that my frat stays above water. At the time there wasn’t a lot of us on campus, so I was extremely stressed out. In my mind I’m like, “Ok, I need to reprioritize, I need to start dropping some things. I just really need somebody to talk to.”
At that time Valerie was still here, and she was very open and receptive. Cedric too. ... They listen first, before they answer. I think that’s a good quality in people, and everybody in OMA has that quality. They listen to you before they actually respond, and then they give it to you real. Nobody in there just tells you what you want to hear. The real side of it was maybe you should take a step back and reprioritize some things. Of course school comes first, and then the second thing you should be worried about is your fraternity.
Education is a major factor in why a lot of our youth aren’t making it. A lot of our youth are getting trapped in this box, this box that’s predestined and designed by society. I know that for me personally, coming out of the intercity of Dade, a lot of people won’t make it out. Unless they get that piece of paper — one, starting with high school, and two moving to a college degree.
I want to create a market for African-American studies within my hometown. I strongly believe that a lot of us aren’t cognizant of who we are and where we came from and where we should go next. So it was almost a no brainer for me to give back to the system that I came from, because the education system everywhere is just f*cked up, I mean just bottom line f*cked up. For years people have been saying they’ve been waiting for a Superman, but this guy hasn’t come, and if he did come, I guess he confined to the norms of what he thought he had to do. I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be the teacher with a body full of tattoos, a mouth full of gold, I’m gonna keep growing my dreads. I want them to see that success comes in all different forms, it’s not just what you see on TV or how you read it in the Western imagination.
I really believe that (education) is the only way out ... Once you educate a man, you can’t take that from him. You could lose your athletic ability, you could get hurt, but you cannot lose what you learned. I just want to create young soldiers — young mental warriors.
Of course. Because when you tell people you want to be an educator, people are always like, “That’s not where the money is,” or “I wouldn’t want to do that,” or “That’s a dead end,” ... all this crazy stuff as if it didn't take a teacher to get them to where they are today. Teachers are the pieces of the pyramid that get you to the top.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs especially — when I speak to Ced about what I want to do he’s always extremely supportive. Pad is extremely supportive, Val when she was here she was extremely supportive, Dr. D is extremely supportive. They say, if that’s what you want to do, then by all means go get it. But realize that it starts here first, in the classroom.
Everybody’s looking for a home. We’ll play it off all day and make it seem like we’re good where we are, but I think to be around genuine people with genuine intentions, it can do nothing but leave you with genuine results. ... I’m not saying rush in there and tell them your whole life story, but give them a chance. I mean, there’s couches there. Even if you don't want to come in and have a formal meeting, just come in and check it out. Nothing beats a failure but to try. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. ...
But to know you have people who understand who you are and where you came from, that’s always a major plus in my eyes.
Name: Saydee McQuay
Year & Major: Junior Biology & Neuroscience with a Pre-Med Track
OMA Program: Dimensions Mentor
One interaction with Saydee McQuay is enough to simultaneously spread a smile across one’s face and evoke feelings of strength and empowerment. A mentor in OMA’s Dimensions program — a multilayered mentoring program designed by and for women of color — Saydee is not only a genuine soul focused on empowering and uplifting those around her on campus but also very invested in our surrounding community. Outside of OMA, she balances life as a Division One athlete on SU’s Women’s Rowing Team and team representative for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, as well as a neuroscience undergraduate researcher in Professor Sandra Hewett’s lab, a program assistant for the Young Scholars at the Central Village Boys and Girls Club, and a volunteer at the VA Hospital.
Ask her how she manages everything with a brilliant smile, however, and she maintains a humble demeanor. “I do a lot. But it doesn’t feel like work when you love when you do,” she laughs. She says she especially loves her experience in OMA, and she encourages all interested students to get involved “as soon as possible.”
I hadn’t been introduced to it my freshman year, but I had been taking some AAS classes that had to do with diversity and I had been getting emails from OMA, so I came in to see what programs they had to offer. I felt like I wanted to be more involved with the community of people of color and just people on campus. Because I felt as a student athlete I felt disconnected from students that weren’t athletes and I wanted to find more of a connection there. ... The beginning of my sophomore year I got involved with Young Scholars in Hendricks Chapel, and we work with a lot of high school students, a lot of refugee African students, so a lot of the students I work with are from Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. We help them with their schoolwork and getting into college, and realizing that college is an obtainable goal.
I got an email from Dimensions ... and I felt like the mission was similar to the mission of Young Scholars in that you’re mentoring someone to figure out their life and figuring out how to feel empowered and how to find their own success. ... I felt really strongly that I would work with people not just in the community but students here to feel empowered on campus because when I was a freshman it was hard because I felt like I didn't have any women of color who were role models. I kind of wanted to be that person for some women on this campus.
Honestly all the people in Dimensions are some of the best people I’ve ever met. They’re smart, they’re empowering, they’re beautiful. They’re women of color that feel the need to spread ... this ... this feeling of empowerment — I can’t put it any other way — to everyone around them. Plus, they’re so supportive. Any time anyone has any accomplishment — whether it’s a good test grade, or they’re hosting a show on campus, or they won a poetry slam, people go and support each other. I feel like I’ve never been in a group where they all truly value each other and everyone as an individual.
I just think it’s beautiful that we can have this group of women of color who just want to lift each other up. You’re told that women should be in competition with each other, you’re told that women should want the attention of a man or that you need to beat out each other, but it’s just the opposite for Dimensions. You need your fellow women to succeed, and I love that about the program. I like that we’re teaching other people to learn that too.
Dimensions has taught me a lot about who I am and how I identify myself, how I see others, how I look at the world. We do a lot of talking about our identities and figuring out who we are. One of the things before Dimensions — being multiracial and a woman of color — it was hard for me to identify, or to find my place or where I fit. Dimensions helped me figure out where I fit. ... It’s taught me a lot about what it means to be a black woman, a woman of color, and how sometimes it’s gonna be difficult and people are going to have an assumption of you, and society’s going to tell you one thing, but just know that there’s been so many women before you who have persevered for you. Women who are strong, independent, beautiful women. That you not only can be one of those women, but that you are one of those women. It’s changed me in so many ways. ... I feel way more confident to be able to go out, be myself, and know that I can use myself as a tool to better other people and better society and use my self-empowerment to empower everyone else.
In the beginning of this year, I had a lot of personal issues outside of school that I had to deal with — my sister was sick, my mom was sick. They both were having surgery; things were getting really hectic. I was at the point where rowing was at its peak, I was finally in Varsity, I was finally at the highest possible level of rowing, and I’m also in my junior year when my classes were the toughest and there’s so much more expectations. I just got really overwhelmed.
My mom was on the phone telling me all the issues we were having right before I went on this trip for Dimensions — we were going horseback riding — and everyone could tell something was wrong. They were like, “Saydee, what’s wrong, Saydee, what’s wrong,” and I felt like I could tell them anything. I was literally crying to all of them, I was crying to Val, to my fellow mentors. Things felt so tough, but everybody there — they may not know, “Oh, Saydee’s favorite color is this” or “Oh yeah, she’s my best friend” — but they were still all so there for me with everything I needed in my worst moments. ...
Even after, people would text me and check in. They make me feel like I always have a place to go back to. I really appreciate everything the girls have done for me. ... I don’t know what I would have done without their support.
It’s just a community. We got together with fullCircle at the beginning of the year, and it was just fun. People here are outgoing and fun to be around. Not only they’re fun but there’s just something so real about the people here. They’re going to be there for you when you need someone to talk to, but they’re always going to be there to talk about anything — it doesn’t always need to be serious.... I regret not being a part of the office during freshman year. When I think back, I’m just like “Ugh, why didn’t I join sooner?! What could have been.” I just want everybody to feel as loved and happy as I feel about my experience that I’ve had in OMA. Because it’s a great place! (laughs).
Echoing the last question, I really am encouraging people to get involved as soon as they can. I feel like there’s such a community — so many great people you’ll meet in the office, not only the students, but also the staff here as well. They’re just wonderful. For me personally, I was kind of afraid to come into the office. I was like, “Oh it’s an office, there’s a person at the desk, everyone else is in their own office. Like, what are they doing. Like, they don't want to hear from me.” So not true, so not true.
Honestly you could come in the office and say, “Hi! How’s your day?” You can go talk to someone about anything. It doesn’t even have to be about any issues, like if you’re dealing with race issues or something, it doesn’t have to be about that though. It can just be coming in to talk with a great group of people. ...
Everyone has something to learn from OMA.