My Time In College: A Tribute to the University of Virginia Class of 2012

A Tribute to the Class of 2012

Wow. What a crazy 4 years it’s been.

The feeling of elation that have from being able to say that I’m an alumni is indescribable. While I know I will cherish the memories I made in college for the rest of my life, I must admit this era in my life is a bittersweet one. It is ironic because when you get to the end, you inevitably feel nostalgia about the beginning.

It brings me back to my beginnings of at this university, back to orientation, where we were shown around campus……oops, I mean grounds. We staggered along with our orientation leaders attending various events, meetings, talks, etc. They took us to breakfast lunch and dinner. The food was immaculate (little did we know that wouldn’t take long to change). We socialized with our future classmates, and signed up for our classes for first semester. And if your are one of my fellow Black alum, we all remember that cheesy smile we had when saw another black person; elated like finding an oasis in the desert. I even faked like I didn’t know where to go so I could tag-along with two girls, who are now my best friends. We left orientation with high hopes, excited about this new big stage in our young lives: college. We were going to college, and not just any college, but the top public university in the country, the University of Virginia.

And when we all remember that hot summer day in 2008 when we moved into our dorms. If you were like me, you probably changed clothes about three times. We quickly were blasted with emails from professors, TAs, Financial Aid (I will have my revenge!), etc. African American students got “That’s Wassup”, welcoming us into the black community; informing us of the United Sisters forum on Black Love on Tuesday that also had free food; the first Lyrics Café of Black Expression Awareness and Thought Society on Wednesday; Black Voices tryouts on Thursday; the date auction and the several parties the various NPHC Fraternities and Sororities were throwing on the weekends.

We remember that first time you came to the BBS (if you know, then you know); I had never seen so many beautiful black women in my entire life. I remember the older guys who took me under their wings, and starting conversations about what classes to take, girls, sports, girls, post-graduate plans, sports, girls, and girls. In true freshman spirit, I went to just about every single party there was, a fact that I “unintentionally” left out in conversations with my parents. I remember the afternoons where all of my dorm-mates and I from Kent- Dabney would gather in Kent 2nd Left to clown around or play Super Smash Brothers until dinner. Then as a big group we’d head over to O’hill to eat dinner, and talk for hours about the latest gossip, school, and of course, girls.

We’d stay there until the janitors literally had to kick us out, then went home a procrastinated before we headed to (Club) Clemons, the infamous library where nothing gets done because you are having way too much fun. KD was also were a powerhouse in club and intramural sports, coming in first or second in just about every sport (and we were FIRST YEARS?!?! LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I remember the weekends were we would play football in the quad, then basketball at the AFC. We walked to the corner at late hours in the morning just to satisfy our urge for some Little Johns or Christian’s Pizza. We laughed, cried, got frustrated, played, studied, did homework, and napped (more of the former).

But ironically, through all the fun memories that were being created all around me, I still at first I didn’t know if I liked UVA. I was skinny young kid from the south side of Chicago, coming to a small, weird mix of city and country place we call Charlottesville. No one talked like me, acted like me, or dressed like me. I felt like I had nothing in common, even with the most of the black people on grounds. I was having withdrawals because they didn’t show Bulls games on TV down here, and for the first time in my life, I saw that Redskins fans do exist.

I felt very alone and completely out of place. Home was thirteen hours away, my dorm sucked, and barely no one could understand my Chi-town dialect. I endured the constant calls from my father asking me how I was doing in school, and reminding me not to wear my du-rag outside of my dorm. A few people asked me was I from Mississippi, while one girl even asked me was I Dominican. I felt some type of way when the whole demeanor of girls’ faces changed when I answered negatively to that infamous question “So…. are you an athlete?” (suddenly, my jokes got less funny). And if another single person asked me “So are you from like the city or the suburbs?”, I was going to flip out on everybody. Long story short, I felt alone.

Then, things got real. My situation was exasperated by the fact that I had fell through the cracks of the system of student facilitation that the school has in place. I received no peer advisor to show me the ropes of college life. The meetings with both my college advisor and my dean were short meetings, where they signed off on my schedule of Calculus, two 200-level classes, and a 400-level Social Theory class. I had no idea what 400-level meant, nor did I understand credit hours. I had so many questions, some of which I didn’t ask because I felt insecure, others of which I just simply had no idea who or what to ask.

I was at the tail end of a long distance……… “relationship” (kinda), and my best friend back home stopped calling or responding to all of my attempts to get in contact with her, without any warning or justification. The adjustment to the projects we call Old Dorms left me sick with colds, the flu, and fevers on and off for almost the entire first semester of school. The workload was overbearing, and free time was a seductive illusion that I didn’t realize wasn’t real until too late. I was in a vicious cycle in which I would fail a test, be so depressed that I would go to the gym for almost five hours every day to get my mind off things, then be so tired that when I got home, I didn’t have the energy to study, would fail the next test, and start the cycle all over again. Needless to say, I did poorly, that semester. I was put on academic warning, and was within the reach of getting kicked out of the university. I never felt so ashamed in my life as when I told my parents my grades. I felt trapped with nowhere to go.

But long talks with my mother, father, and brother kept me optimistic. My faith in God kept me humble, but confident. I was in a do or die situation, so it was no time for me to keep my head down. I had to shed my regrets, and put my best foot forward.  One thing that kept me going was a quote that I kept written down, which reads “There were two men behind bars. One saw dirt, while other saw stars.” The spirit of positivity guided my actions from there on out. I was determined that I would not let my past failings dictate my future. Through hard work, a better attitude, less gym time, less partying, and summer school for two years, I got my grades up, got off academic warning, have never been back on since, and have steadily got better grades every semester of my college progression.

A staple influence throughout all this was many of the black professors I was instructed by. These brilliant black men and women on grounds pushed us to not only meet the rigor of the intellectual work they expected of us to do, but also to want to push ourselves. They taught us how to think critically about issues that concern our community, opened our minds, and unlocked the vast amount of potential we didn’t even know we had. They showed us that as black people we were kings, queens, slaves, leaders, workers, protesters, warriors, artisans, thinkers, dreamers, and believers. They taught us that we are majestic, charismatic, beautiful, ugly, light, dark, sophisticated, trifling, bougie, ghetto, and everything in between. They always approached teaching from both a theoretical and practical standpoint, constantly connecting what we were learning to cultural, political, and social significance in our past, present, and future. And above all, they truly cared about us, not only as students, but as human beings. They respected us as scholars, but also never hesitated to lend a helping hand or usher mentoring advice. I can never fully repay them for the tools they gave my mind (especially Professor Harold. Also wanted to thank Lisa Russ Spaar, Michael Levinson, Donna Gutman, Stephen Cushman, the late and very great Greg Colomb, Jason Nabi, Dennis Profitt, Ian Grandison, Marissa Brown, just to name a few.)

So my college life has a happy ending after all. I emerged triumphant, springing back from tremendous academic adversity. I have met people who I cannot imagine how even a big transitional milestone of graduation could push us apart. Not even one bit.  I even gained five new brothers when I joined the most distinguished of fraternities, Alpha Phi Alpha. I thoroughly enjoyed all my nights performing for B.E.A.T.S., the large groups with OneWay Christian outreach, and attending the many events of organizations such as NAACP, United Sisters, NSBE, fraternities, sororities, and the one org that deserves the most honor, respect, and gratitude, BSA. I have matured tremendously and see things from a much better perspective. UVA has cultivated me into the strong, God-fearing, intellectual, passionate, altruistic, determined man I am today.

When people ask what I am going to do after college, I tell them that I want to become both a music journalist and producer. But in all honesty, my true intentions, when I express them sound somewhat cliché, and are sometimes hard to articulate fully. I want to change the world. Don’t ask me how I plan to do that, because you might not get a fully fleshed out answer. Last time I checked, they didn’t have a “For Dummies” book for that (what’s bad is they probably do). But that is what I want to do. And I know that a degree from the school of all schools will be a stepping stone for my life goals.

A quote that I hold dear to my heart reads “Do all the good you can, by all means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” This maxim is one that I live by and I implore you to all live by it also. Being a graduate from this illustrious university is a privilege, and a responsibility. We are the future lawyers, writers, professional athletes, business men, teachers, and doctors of the world. And the last thing that will happen on our watch is that we go anywhere on earth without our presence being felt. Each step on the journey to our personal goals will elevate the whole community around us. We are the new generation of rebels, leaders, and activists. I know that it is a heavy burden to bare, and we won’t always get the credit we deserve for being a good people. But I can only speak for myself when I say that Joshua Adams will always remain himself. If anyone has to be me, it might as well be me.

So as we walk towards the horizon of our future, let’s give the sun a run for its money. Let no one be able to tell us that the graduates of the Class of 2012 aren’t the brightest stars in the sky. So to the best class that has ever graced the grounds of UVA, I wish you nothing but the best of success in all your future careers and endeavors. Undoubtedly, if I had to choose one aspect of my time at UVA that I cherished the most, I would absolutely have to say the people I met. If I had chosen to stay in Illinois, I would have never talked about music, and girls for hours with Brenton, or spent half of my first year in Randolph’s room, or had the best summer of my life with The Crew in Woody, or went to Jamaica, or shared laughs about our awkward sense of humor with Brielle, or  created a secret handshake with my best friend Aleshia, met my future baby mama Sarajanee, or met Kai, Mike, HT3, Chuk, Delano, Tyler, Evan, Jasmine Brown, Jasmine Braxton, the Women’s Basketball team and staff, Jessica and my twin, Annesha (my other baby-momma), one of the greatest people in the world Lauren Mims, Sheri (was my baby momma but she’s taken now), the whole One Way crew, my Oluponya family (#ChristianHeavyMetalRockVoice: Ohhhh yeeeeeaaaaah-eahhhhh! lol Inside joke), my guys for life #MONEYTEAM, my best-friend, the light of my life Kelly-Ann (my first baby momma), and so many more.

If I had to say I had any regrets, I would say that my only one is not getting to know each and every one of you on a personal level. At our age, you know we tend to clique up fast and I wish I would have spread myself out way further than my primary or secondary group of friends. I did meet many amazing people here that have made my life better. I do however wish I really invested more time in many of the friendships outside of my immediate circle(s). I found that in life, some of the coolest, down-to-earth, fun, hilarious, exciting people are often the ones who you thought you had nothing in common with at first glance. But as all regrets are, this one is the opportunity to use future time more intelligently. So let’s all keep in touch.

I hope you all remember the skinny kid from the south-side of Chicago. It was a tremendous pleasure and a privelege to say that I spent these last four years of my life in your presence. It was a privilege to say you are the people I get to say I received the honor of honors with. I love you each of you all with all my heart. Take care and God Bless.

We Out Here,

Josh A

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1 comment

  1. Despite being from the class of 2011, I actually really enjoyed reading this lol. Though, I still believe the whole class of 2012 being the best class that ever graced the grounds of UVA is debatable lol.

    On a serious note, I really appreciate you sharing your experience. I’m glad, despite it being rocky in the beginning, you enjoyed your time at our wonderful university. I love the postive attitude you brought in your writing–it just made my early morning sunrise lol. My favorite line was: “The spirit of positivity guided my actions from there on out. I was determined that I would not let my past failings dictate my future.” I loved this one the best because it’s something we all know we should abide by, but it’s often the hardest to live up to. Often, it’s so much easier to have a pity party about our past than to do anything in the present to change our future.

    Thanks again for your positive words. Keep it up and continuing DREAMING big about changing the world! You may not know how yet, but God will direct your paths. I have a poster on my wall that helps motivate me and it says, “All those that have achieved great things, have been great dreamers”. Never stop dreaming! 🙂

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