Tatianna Young grew up in North Carolina, making her way to New York within the past few years. She is a first-generation college student pursuing an accelerated pathway to a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University or Siena College. She is a member of Student Assembly, Phi Theta Kappa, Business Club, Anime Club, and winner of the 2021 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. She is graduating this May with a degree in Business Administration. Her resilience and determination to excel makes Tatianna an inspiring leader among her peers.
What made you choose to attend SUNY Broome?
I always knew I wanted to go to college, but I goofed off a lot in high school; I did not take school seriously, and I thought because of that, I wouldn’t be able to go to college. Then a friend told me about SUNY Broome, and I learned that it had all the options that could help me get on track to a college degree and open doors to potential careers. Attending SUNY Broome was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I started out thinking college wasn’t an option for me, but here I am today, graduating with a 3.9 GPA and looking forward to transferring to either Binghamton University or Siena College to pursue a bachelor’s degree. I’m really thankful and humbled by this whole experience.
What was it like for you coming into college as a first-generation college student?
I didn’t know anything about college or applying to college. Coming from a somewhat unstable financial background and growing up, my parents didn’t provide any support or guidance regarding college or potential career paths. At 18, I was kicked out of my home altogether, and from that point, I had to fend for myself. So for a while, I didn’t think college was an option for me. I had a friend who thankfully introduced me to SUNY Broome. Still, after that, the primary support that helped keep me on track has been the advisors, professors, and staff at SUNY Broome; they have really been my rock and constant that helped guide me towards being successful in college.
What influenced you to choose Business as your program of study?
When I first enrolled at SUNY Broome, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do. I started looking through the degree programs on the webpage, and I saw the Business program. I gravitated towards Business because it encompasses a lot of different potential career paths. And I thought with a business degree you can’t go wrong.
What type of career field do you see yourself in?
I like the creative side of Business, so I think I would like to do something in marketing. I don’t really see myself working in the stressful environment of, for example, one of the top fortune 500 companies; I’d much rather work in smaller marketing offices or businesses or even in higher education. I’m still figuring that part out.
How did you get involved with the Student Assembly?
I’m the president of the Business Club, and every club attends the Council of Clubs, which is a monthly meeting where clubs come together to discuss what everyone is doing, which I thought would be a good thing to attend. During one of the meetings, the club leaders got into a disagreement that got a little intense, so I stepped in and tried my best to guide the conversation into a productive discussion. After that, Sandy Stephens, who was the staff member overseeing the meeting, reached out to me later to say that she was impressed by my leadership in the council meeting and asked if I would be interested in joining the student assembly. I jumped into the open vice president position, and then my second semester, I became president.
Have you always enjoyed extracurricular activities?
When I first started at SUNY Broome, I didn’t think I would do anything extracurricular. I thought, it’s just a community college; I’ll just get through my program and do fun things when I transfer. But, my friend really pushed me to look into extracurricular activities, and I’m glad I did. Being highly social doesn’t come naturally to me. I can get nervous in social situations, so I never thought I would take on a lot of responsibility in extracurricular activities, let alone leadership positions. But, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and it’s helped me develop my social skills, and I have become more comfortable in these types of situations. Extracurricular activities are so important if you can make the time for them; I don’t know where my mental state would be without that social interaction.
Is there a particular goal or achievement that you worked on with the Student Assembly you’d like to share?
Yeah, this past year, we focused a lot on helping students who may be struggling with the sudden transition to online learning due to COVID-19. In the student assembly, we did a lot of outreach to students through campus-wide surveys. One of the surveys asked students how they were doing and about their feelings about the semester. We got a lot of feedback from this campaign which we used to further our outreach efforts. As a group, we went through each response and responded to every student who submitted an answer, and we tried to help students with any issues they were facing. For example, one student had an interview coming up and didn’t know where to get clothing for an upcoming job interview; we were able to set them up with an appointment with Career and Transfer Services where they were able to get access to some clothing.
After that, we set up a peer-to-peer calling campaign to address the fact that mental health nationwide had declined. So, we called about 1,200 students over the past two semesters, and we would call and ask if they had any concerns or issues they wanted to discuss. We documented any worries or problems and then directed them to where they could get assistance. We also wanted this outreach to be a general check-in with our peers. We thought of it as a way to reach out and connect during a time where that hadn’t been easy due to COVID. The traditional college experience is supposed to be about connecting with people and being around people. I think COVID kind of ruined that, so this was our way to make those human connections that I feel are important. I also believe that students receiving a call from other students probably made students feel more comfortable opening up and talking about any issues they may be having. They might not be so willing to talk to faculty and staff. We got a lot of positive feedback from students saying they appreciated the check-in and even asked to return the favor by checking in with the callers. I think this was a really good outreach initiative for the student assembly to be involved with.
How were you able to graduate with a two-year degree in one year?
Before I came to SUNY Broome, I learned that my father had transferred the use of a GI bill, which helps individuals in the armed services and their family members with the cost of college tuition. And because my dad was in the US Army, he was able to transfer the use of the GI Bill to me, but because I didn’t learn that he did that until around December of 2019, I had to plan fast because I only had until the age of 23 to use it, which gave me three years to complete four years of college. So, I decided to take classes straight throughout the summer and winter semesters to accelerate the process. Now I can graduate from SUNY Broome in one year instead of two.
I am looking forward to this summer; I will finally take a nice break, maybe some vacation.
How was your experience with online learning?
Online was scary, but what helped me get through it was that I made it a point to communicate and check in with my professors frequently. I was constantly messaging them with questions or asking for feedback; I messaged them a lot, they probably got annoyed with me, and I would get nervous about messaging them, but they were always friendly and helpful.
I want to give a shout out to Professor Virginia Shirly, my English professor; she was one of the first people I met on campus. I had some difficulty with some other instructors, and she worked with me and helped me navigate through that. She helped me realize that I can be comfortable opening up and asking questions and that it’s ok to ask for help. Thank you!
You won this year’s Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Congratulations, that’s quite the achievement; how do you feel about it?
It started with my experience in Student Assembly. As a member, I met one of the staff advisers for that group, Sandy Stephens. Over the past two semesters, Sandy became a mentor to me and significant support during my time at SUNY Broome. I felt like I connected with Sandy because we have a similar background, and she was so kind. Sandy was the person that first told me about the Chancellor’s Award. She also encouraged and helped me put together the packet of information you have to provide as part of the nomination process.
At first, I didn’t want to send in the packet because I thought, there’s no way I’m ever going to win this award, but I did it, and I ended up winning, and I’m glad I did; this is an exhilarating moment and a huge accomplishment for me. It’s weird to me because I felt like I was never really good at or excelled in anything during high school, and now I’m on a completely different path. I’m in college accomplishing things I never thought I would, I’ve met some fantastic people and I’m being recognized for my achievements and making a positive impact in the campus community; it’s really nice. I don’t think I can describe in words what it means to me. But I can say it is my biggest accomplishment so far, and it’s helped me start to build confidence in myself that I didn’t have before. I feel proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished at SUNY Broome.
What advice would you give to someone who may be in a similar situation to you, who might not think attending college is an option for them?
When I was in high school and struggling, I didn’t know that I could reach out to my teachers and talk to them about it, and I did poorly because of that. I had a pretty negative view of teachers during high school; I thought they were all out to get me. But they’re not. They’re there to help you succeed. So the advice would be not to give up. Going to a community college is a great option. And whether you’re still in high school or college now and not doing well, take that first step in making a connection with your teachers or professors and ask questions, be honest about your feelings and talk about your concerns. They can’t help you if they don’t know you’re struggling. They are there to help you, and they want to help you. Especially at SUNY Broome, there are many resources and people willing to help you be successful.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I don’t want people to look at me and see me as this person who is super smart and has it all together and think that I know exactly what I’m doing all the time because I don’t. Things are never going to be perfect, and sometimes everything seems like a big mess but, keep going.
Oh, and use your Google calendar! This is the number one most helpful organization tool I’ve had in college and has helped me stay on top of so many things.