I remember my freshman year move-in day like it was yesterday. My father and grandmother helped me move in and, although they were beyond excited for me, I was so nervous. There I was, 17 years old, about to start a chapter of my life that I had no idea on how it would play out. All I knew was that I was 600 miles away from home and knew no one.
Coming to Norfolk State has taught me a lot about myself. Being born and raised in New York, Virginia’s vibe was a lot different to me and added to the list of new things I needed to get used to. Luckily, I made some incredible friends who have helped me navigate my way throughout college. I am beyond grateful for them because we have all seen each other through the good, bad and ugly, but we still love each other unconditionally. I would like to say thank you to each and every one of them. Thank you for being my shoulders to cry on when I was homesick, for always giving me those gut-bursting laughs, for helping me study for exams, for encouraging me to follow my dreams and for giving me a second family while mine was miles away. I love you all deeply.
Academically, Norfolk State has given me lessons and connections that I will hold close to my mind and heart forever. The staff at Norfolk State genuinely cares about your future, as long as you do too. I would like to give a special thank you to Mr. Steve Opfer for being one of my biggest supporters. Mr. Opfer, without you, I probably wouldn’t have half of the mindset, knowledge, connections or opportunities that I have now. Thank you for seeing my potential and pushing me to grow, no matter how much I veered off. A thank you is also owed to Dr. Morgan Kirby. Thank you for getting to know the real Tiana, pushing me to stay away from mediocrity and for keeping it real with me, no matter how hard-headed I could get. Both of you helped mold me into the journalist I am today.
Culturally, Norfolk State has instilled a pride so deep in my heart that it makes me bleed melanin. Being surrounded by black excellence all day really made me proud of my skin. My parents have always raised me to love my blackness, but Norfolk State helped enhance it by surrounding me with history. I walked into college with relaxed hair and now I’m walking out with my natural curls thanks to my fellow Spartan sisters who helped me embrace my ‘fro. No one will understand what an HBCU will do to you until you attend one and experience the history, the people! HBCUs are striving and expanding, and it’s so beautiful because, at one point, they were all we had. NSU will forever be more than a university to me, it is MY HBCU.
I can’t say that I didn’t struggle throughout college, but I will say that my parents raised a fighter. Without my parents, I can confidently say that I would have given up on college a long time ago. I am so thankful for a loving mother, who is also my best friend. She, even if only through the phone, is the first person to cheer me on when I’m doing great and the first person to make me smile when I’m feeling down. I am also thankful for a pro-black and successful father who never let the thought of giving up or settling for mediocrity cross my mind. Since day one, he’s taught me that God has a big plan for me and that I should never doubt myself. My love for my parents is incomparable.
Finally, I would like to thank my Spartan Echo staff. I’ve been a part of several organizations including the Public Relations Student Society of America, Resident Hall Association and the Spartan Generals Peer Mentoring Program, but I feel that my on-campus home is the Echo office. I’ve watched each and every one of you grow into great journalists, photographers and graphic designers. Yes, we’ve had our issues throughout the year (forgive the pun), but the great memories outnumber everything else. We’ve truly become a family and I love you all so much. Thank you for allowing me to guide you all and thank you for helping me become a better leader. I wouldn’t change a single thing about you all, except for your definition of a deadline.
I think that it’s safe to say that my success here at Norfolk State is due to a conglomerate of reasons. Here I am, 21 years old, about to start yet another chapter in my life, but this one is a bit of a mystery for me. Fortunately, I have life lessons, family and friends from home and from Norfolk State to help guide me further into my future. I am proud to say that I am a Spartan graduating with honors and with the title of Editor in Chief of the Spartan Echo, a nationally award-winning university newspaper.
The next time you see me on campus, I’ll be an alumnus, but I will still yell at the top of my lungs…
“BEHOLD, THE GREEN AND GOLD!”