Today, multicultural students in America’s colleges and universities gain the knowledge, tools, and skills to become the leaders of tomorrow. From social services and government to education and the corporate workplace, they are part of the new generation of America’s leaders.
Ashley Vaughan, Loyola University Maryland
In college, Ashley was one of many women with the same name, so her friends began calling her Ashley CNN because even as a freshman, she dreamed of one day working for the cable network. Five years later, it’s an even more fitting moniker, because she is living her dream . . .
Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and raised by a single mother, Ashley describes herself as highly inquisitive, very outgoing, and always ready to start a conversation. She was a serious student in school, driven to excel. “I placed a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. I think some of this was fueled by my desire to not be a stereotype. As an African American woman raised by a single-parent mom, I was well aware of the low expectations often placed upon black children. So, education represented an opportunity for me to rise above stereotypes and achieve my dreams.”
In high school, Ashley ran both indoor and outdoor track, “not because I was good,” she admits, “but because it gave me a chance to hang out with my friends.” Since she was in honors and AP courses, academics took up most of her time.
“As one of very few African American students in a predominantly Caucasian school, I was often the only black kid in all of my classes,” Ashley says. “This often meant my white classmates viewed my voice as representative of what ‘all black people think or feel’ on racial issues, even though I was speaking for myself. Imagine the pressure!” Outside of school she was active in her church, as well as volunteering at a local hospital and at the American Heart Association.
Religion didn’t play a role in selecting Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, but as a Christian, Ashley appreciated the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person: body, mind, and soul. Majoring in communications with an emphasis on broadcast journalism, she quickly became active in Loyola’s student government executive cabinet as Director of Academic Affairs.
“What I enjoyed most about Loyola was the accessibility students had to all levels of college staff. Deans, professors, or even vice presidents never felt unreachable to me,” she says. “This wasn’t just my own story; it was the same for many. The academic staff at Loyola is incredible.”
Junior year she spent four months in El Salvador, which she calls a life-altering experience. “It was living and attempting to understand the harsh reality of poverty that was the most difficult. I struggled to understand how people were to live a life without the basic necessities of food and clean water.” This experience helped her realize she was not just an American but a citizen of the world.
After graduating in 2010, Ashley began an internship at CNN on the American Morning program. She was then hired as a freelance news assistant on the breaking news desk, followed by a position as production assistant in CNN’s Special Projects Department.
“Needless to say, I love my job! Even though I have a really long commute, I’m really excited about the work I do. Each day I’m challenged to be creative and think globally, and I’m encouraged to succeed.”
Terese Clarke, Lesley University
Raised in a small “but perfect” family in Boston, Massachusetts, Terese says she came “from a very well-grounded, spiritual, and supportive family; they’re extremely close, loving, and always laughing. My older sister and I couldn’t possibly have had better parents.”
Always an honor student, Terese was shy until her junior year at Newton South High School, when her more adventurous side began to come out; she started a Step Squad with her friends that still continues today.
“My father is from Jamaica and my mother is from Honduras. They both came to the United States when they were teenagers and went on to become well educated themselves. So they instilled in us that higher education is a powerful key to success in life—which in turn meant that the question of college was not whether, but when.”
After receiving the Lesley University Book Award her senior year and making several visits to the school’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Terese realized this was an environment she could thrive in. A full academic scholarship sealed the deal. “I was really glad that I got in,” she says, “and I’ve never regretted it.”
What Terese liked best about Lesley was the combination of class sizes, the people, and the location. Located minutes from the dynamic heart of Cambridge, with downtown Boston only minutes away, she had to learn early on to prioritize her time and find a balance between outside activities and school work.
An English major, she was active in the Emerald Key and National English Honor Societies, as well doing teaching practicums (similar to internships) in nearby suburbs.
Although she says it may sound a little cliché, commencement was the highlight of her college years. “Walking across that stage and receiving the degree that I had worked so hard for was the best feeling in the world. I knew then for sure that I had greatly increased my chances of becoming successful in today’s world.”
After completing her master’s in elementary education at Lesley, Terese spent a year as a bilingual language cultural assistant in Cordoba, Spain, an experience that she describes as “awesome.” She got to teach, live in another culture, and learn some Spanish. “My mother really enjoys being able to speak to me in Spanish now, and knowing the language also helps me converse with many of my students and their parents.”
Currently, Terese teaches third grade at Orchard Gardens Pilot School in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She hopes to go back to college to earn a second master’s degree, this time in education policy, and perhaps go on for her doctorate.
Ingrid Sotelo, Marymount Manhattan College
Raised in East Harlem, New York City, Ingrid saw college as a gateway to life outside her neighborhood. Ironically, though, college led to a fulfilling career in her own community.
Ingrid had a lot of responsibility at home, including caring for her younger brother and housekeeping. College was not a topic of discussion, partly because her mother, a single working parent, didn’t have time and also because few kids in East Harlem (Spanish Harlem) even considered college.
However, Ingrid attended the Young Leadership School from grades 7–12, where she became involved in community service social justice clubs. She also learned she had options in life and that college could be a pathway to helping minorities, a goal that had become her passion.
She picked Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) in New York City “because I was used to a small/intimate environment. I knew that this school was going to provide that for me. I was also excited because MMC allowed me to enter under the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). Because my mom is a single parent with a low income, I needed to look for what best suited my financial situation at the moment. HEOP allowed me to attend a great college and have almost all my tuition paid for.”
Yet, at the beginning of her college career, Ingrid felt she didn’t fit in, as one of a very small Hispanic minority. However, by her sophomore year she had been elected president of the Black and Latino Student Association. That, combined with the guidance of her mentor and Director of HEOP, Blanca Vega, she had found her niche. Ingrid majored in sociology with a minor in Hispanic studies.
“When I first started at MMC, I remember thinking that I would not make it; it was a lot to handle and I would not be able to keep up with all the work. Well, I proved myself wrong! Now I work long hours everyday, but it makes me
feel great to know that I am serving the community I was born and raised in.”
While she was still a student, Ingrid began an internship with state senator Jose Serrano, working on the East Harlem anti-deportation coalition project. That internship led to a full-time job with the senator’s office after she graduated in 2010.
This experience was followed by an offer to work in Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer’s administration as community liaison for East Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood. Ingrid is now also the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the Borough.
For the future, Ingrid would like to go back to school to earn a master’s degree and eventually open her own nonprofit organization focusing on immigrant issues.
Ingrid has come a long way from East Harlem—only to find it’s where she’s most at home.