Kyara Perkins dropped by Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) director Venessa Rodriguez’s office on a recent morning to answer a non-urgent question.
“Would you be able to go to the city this weekend?” Rodriguez asked the SUNY Broome student, a native of the Big Apple.
Sure, Kyara replied, growing curious. Then came the follow-up question, completely unexpected: “Do you want to see Michelle Obama?”
“I screamed, I can’t lie! I take opportunities like this so seriously,” Kyara recounted. “She (Michelle Obama) is very influential to me, being a black woman into law, and wanting to help the development of people.”
The ticket came by way of SUNY’s Office of Opportunity Programs, which distributed tickets to Michelle Obama’s Dec. 1 talk at the Barclays Center to EOP offices throughout the SUNY system. The former First Lady, attorney and university administrator is on tour promoting her new book, Becoming.
Perkins has expressed her intention to read the book, making the Criminal Justice – Corrections major the right choice for the trip.
“I’m 19, and people in my generation aren’t usually thrilled about books. Once I heard Michelle was coming out with a book, I knew I wanted to read it,” she explained. “It explains her struggles and how we come from similar backgrounds, although she’s from Chicago and I’m from New York.”
During the Barclays talk, Michelle Obama discussed “being me, us and we,” giving the audience a glimpse into the themes behind her book, She discussed her childhood, how she met Barack Obama and how she worked to maintain her individuality as First Lady. One message in particular resounded with Kyara: Michelle Obama attended Harvard Law School and became an attorney not for any particular reason, but simply because she wanted to.
Kyara also fields similar questions: Why corrections? Why does she plan to attend law school someday, and become a civil rights attorney? Like the First Lady, there is no particular reason or justification; Kyara is interested in the field and this path, and that’s enough.
While Michelle Obama inspired and thrilled her audience, the audience itself was also thrilling to Kyara Perkins. She was surrounded by fellow EOP students and the trip was a bonding experience; participants exchanged numbers and had a great time.
“I felt like I was in a different environment. I found the group of people that were more like me. It showed me what the possibilities are,” Kyara reflected. “It was a very insightful experience.”
Kyara Perkins hadn’t initially intended on coming to SUNY Broome; she had originally applied to out-of-state schools, only to realize that the financial burden would weigh heavily. Her parents recommended staying in the SUNY system – a great foundation at a reasonable price.
She had friends who attended SUNY Broome and applied last minute. Graduating in May 2019, she has just completed the SUNY application, but is keeping her transfer options open. SUNY Oneonta is a possibility, but her dream school is The College at Brockport, where she hopes to study criminal justice and ultimately prepare for entry into law school.
Overall, SUNY Broome has been a good experience for Kyara, both as a student and a young adult, mastering concepts such as budgeting and time management in addition to her coursework.
“It has really helped me mature and get into the right groups of people,” she said.