Scholarships sometimes seem to shower down on Orion Barber – most recently the 2019 Hites Scholarship, the largest that Phi Theta Kappa awards to its members.
“It’s because I keep applying,” said the dual Math and Paralegal Studies major, who is graduating this May.
Highly active in the campus community, Orion is taking the concept of “paying it forward” to the next level by establishing his own scholarship for future Hornets, which will be awarded for the first time this spring. Named for its founder, the $500 scholarship will benefit students working on behalf of and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community
“It’s a meaningful award to people who are working with an underrepresented population,” he said.
Orion has a long personal history working with LGBTQ+ and progressive causes, and is openly gay himself. In 2018, he helped the college’s Anime Club do a presentation at the SUNY Pride conference; the club’s executive board members all identified as LGBTQ+.
He decided upon a scholarship after researching the Campus Pride Index, which rates colleges on their efforts to be more inclusive, welcoming and respectful of the LGTBQ population. (SUNY Broome isn’t ranked in the index.) The site also includes a pride scholarship database.
“I’ve learned through a lot of my work that if you want something done, one of the best ways is to do it yourself,” he said. “I’m in a better place to make a donation thanks to all the scholarships I’ve received. I’m giving back; that’s what I love doing around here.”
Orion is heavily involved in SUNY Broome’s campus life and even its institutional direction, serving multiple terms as the student member of the college Board of Trustees. His other leadership roles include the SUNY Broome chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the Women’s Discussion Group and multiple campus committees, and he also helps his peers as a tutor in the Math Lab.
This fall, he will head to the University at Buffalo to major in math as an undergraduate, and follow that up with a Ph.D. in mathematics and a law degree – a continuation of his dual path at SUNY Broome.
A math degree brings many career opportunities, from professor to researcher and data scientist, and Orion hasn’t settled on just one. He does, however, plan to run for political office someday – perhaps building on the experience he had running for SUNY Broome’s Student Assembly.
“I want to represent people and make meaningful change. With my math degree and my law degree, I think that might help my electability,” he said.
While Orion Barber is moving on to the next stage in the equation, he hopes the scholarship he established will continue to make a difference at SUNY Broome.
“I love it here. I want other students to be able to enjoy it here as well,” he said.