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Wali Rushdan II, who earned his degree in 2006 in political science and is now an attorney, speaks to the newest UD Students of Distinction.
The University of Delaware was a transformative part of life for Wali Rushdan II. There was a lot of mixed emotions, he said.
It was a time at which I was brimming with excitement about
achieving my major goals in life, Rushdan said. At the same time, it
was filled with anxiety and uncertainty about whether or not those
ambitions would come to pass.
Rushdans message to the 2019 Students of Distinction was to be proud
of the honor and not to underestimate their individual potential.
Rushdan was the keynote speaker at the May 1 event in Clayton Hall,
organized by the Vice Provost for Diversity Carol Henderson. The event
celebrates the achievements of students of color and their relationship
with their mentors.
More than a decade ago, Rushdan was in their place when he was
recognized for the same honor. He is now an associate at the law firm
Fox Rothschild. He challenged the students to think carefully about what
this honor means, including the obstacles, power and obligations that
come with the distinction.
What makes you a student of distinction, a key characteristic is
that its not qualified. Its a full stop, Rushdan said. These are
things that you are committed to irrespective of the challenges that are
in your way. These are your foundational principles. Its a no-excuses
mentality that you have.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Wali Rushdan II (second from left) chats with some of the honorees at the 2019 Students of Distinction dinner.
While the potential and drive are within the individual, Rushdan said
he would not be where he is today without the many mentors that
believed in him. He specifically recognized a few of those whole helped
him at UD including Henderson, Center for Black Culture Director
Kasandra Moye and former Director of Financial Aid Johnie Burton. He
also recognized Gregory Williams, a partner in his law firm, who
impacted Rushdans career.
At every stage in my life, Ive been the beneficiary of
mentors, Rushdan said. Some of which happened organically. Many of
which did not look like me. Many of which had different cultural
experiences than I did. So I want to make sure were clear that mentors
can take many different forms in your life and sometimes you have to be
proactive about seeking them out.
He closed by asking the audience to participate in a call and response of an affirmation he repeats regularly:
Now I am the voice. I will lead not follow. I will believe not
doubt. I will create not destroy. I am a force for good. I am a leader.
Defy the odds. Set a new standard. Step up. Step up. Step up.
UD Provost Robin Morgan congratulated the full room of award winners
on this special honor. Faculty and staff members can nominate any
undergraduate or graduate students of color they believe are deserving
of this award. Nominees are then celebrated at the annual dinner with
their faculty and staff nominators.
Youre here tonight, because someone noticed you, Morgan said. You
caught their eye and you caught their attention. A faculty member or a
staff member has looked at you and seen potential.
Some of this year's Students of Distinction gather at the event with the faculty and staff members who nominated them for the honor.
Similar to Rushdan, Morgan said mentorship completely changed the
direction of her life. Her mentor introduced her to new avenues, like
the idea of going to graduate school. She warned them not to take the
power of mentorship for granted.
You are students of distinction and we are very, very proud of every
one of you, Morgan said. We are also proud of the faculty and the
staff members who identified you and taken their evening to come and
spend time with us, too.
Henderson congratulated the 2019 winners and emphasized the impact of mentorship on the larger UD community.
You earned the right to be here, Henderson said. In this fashion,
this distinction is by extension a community effort that owes much of
its synergies to the African principle of Ubuntu: I am because we are.
She thanked all of those who helped put the event together. She also
recognized several high school student groups invited to the event in
the hopes getting an introduction to UD and building relationships that
may one day become mentorships. This included students from the
mentoring-focused groups Ladies of Legacy and Aspira of Delaware, as
well as Dhazhea Freeman, who impressed judges of a YMCA of Delaware
essay contest with her words about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freeman is
scheduled to be a first-year student at UD in the fall.
Henderson noted there are many ways to think about mentorship, but
highlighted the interpretation by Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis. He
wrote, True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite
their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing,
joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Behnam Abasht, Michael Abshat, Michael Babak, Matthew Bott and Jordyn Stevens
College of Arts and Sciences
Janelly Abreu, Victoria Acevedo, Javier Aguiar, Shumailah
Ahmad-Statts, Patience Ankomah, Elaine Ansah, David Arredondo, Jason
Austin, Kobe Baker, Keith Barnes, Thomas Bond, Sean Briscoe, Chenesia
Brown, Camilo Cardenas, William Cavin, Jr., Sharlie Chisholm, Taurence
Chisholm, Jr., Maria Chudzik, Nigel Clark, Norma Cruz, Rufino Cruz,
Andre Cunningham, Wyatt Dawson, Leon DeShields, Jonay Desire, Kathryn
Dias, Martine Edmond, Jean Filo, Braulio Florentino, Rigoberto Flores,
Keynon Harris-Miller, Briana Kenry, Yanko Hernando, Lindsay Hoffman,
Gillian Isabelle, Jayda Jenkins, Caleigh Johnson, Semaj Kelly, Edwin
Lopez, Nana Marfo, Tylor Matthews, Keith Medley, Rigoberto Mejia, Donte
Moore, Lizbeth Mora-Martinez, Eden Negusse, Brandon Okeyo, Comfort
Osundina, Anthony Ozuna-Pena, Amorelle Penick, Garciela Perez, Courtney
Porter, Michael Pugh, Daniele Richards, Maame Riverson, Ade Robertson,
Atlas Moon Rodriguez-Decker, Barbara Romero-Duenas, Dianna Ruberto,
Miata Smith, Jymere Stillis-Stanford, Michael Sydnor, Domonique
Thurston, Santiago Vizcaino, Kayla Williams, David Wilson, Alexis
Wrease, Heran Yosef, Marvin Smith
Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics
Queen Agboye, Leah Austin, Patrick Bingham, Andrew Connell, Martisha
Durant, Amanda Flores, Shawn Futch, Paul Gathii, Jordan Glenn, Russell
Harris, Arynn Hernandez, Cesar Hernandez Sanchez, Tiana Jarman, Jazzlynn
Jefferson, Melissa Jones, Cindy King, Chris Lynch, Briana Mateo, Iyanna
McCoy, Andre McMillan, Joshua Moreira, Onyekachi Njubigbo, Destini
Robinson, April Singleton, Malachi Walker
College of Earth, Ocean and Environment
Hanna Baffone, Brielle Bianchini, Ramiro Bruno, Kaylee Croce, Marissa
McClenton, Christine Obeng, Jared Williams, Iris Perez-Mazariegos
College of Education and Human Development
Racine Boyle, Kwaku Edusei, Maame Bema Kyeadea-Amponsah, Joshua
Lewis, Kadisha Mack, Nicole Mejia, Timothy Penn, Lindsey Perez-Perez,
Alexus Ramirez, Nicole Robinson, Jillian Solomon, Mie-Hawa Sumner,
Deandra Taylor, Jordana Woodford, Christina Woodson, Nefetaria Yates
College of Engineering
Abubakarr Bah, Kelechi Chukwunenye, Jorge Hernandez, Chin-Pao Huang,
Keira Morgan, Olivia Powell, Stephanie Ross, Daniel Sanchez Carretero,
College of Health Sciences
Luisa Abadia, Ayomide Adeoti, Shantelle Aidoo, Nana Asante, Justin
Brown, Jordan Carr, George Class-Peters, Rachel DeLauder, Ngozi
Dom-Chima, Leon Elcock, Camille Rischer, Vivian Guyton, Francisco
Hernandez, Cindy Iheanacho, Sierra Kahete, Danyella Lopez-Juarez,
Meiling Genavieve Miranda, Lizette Morales-Ixtepan, Abdual Musa, Maria
Noguez Perez, Amber Rance, Keyanna Riddick, Keddy Rwara, Kameelah
Slater, Gloria Soto, Ariona Thornton
Christina Baughan, Aderolake Bolarinwa, Cassandra Harris
Article by Carlett Spike; photos by Kevin Quinlan