“And so here it is, I'm writing to you today as the underdog who came out on top from the University of Oklahoma. I encourage you that as you make one of the greatest choices in your life to remember not to be so focused on the things you want most but place priority on becoming a part of the things you need.”
Six years ago I never would have imagined I'd be asked to write a letter about my experience at the University of Oklahoma with the expectation that it would resonate in the hearts and minds of first-generation students of color. In 2012, spring semester of my senior year I was contemplating which HBCU (Historically Black University/College) I was going to attend. I had been accepted into every school that I had applied to, but quite frankly it didn't really matter which university I went to as long as I left Oklahoma!
I'll never forget the feeling I got every time I received an acceptance letter from the institutions I had applied to. One day I decided to share the good news with my counselor and I remember her voice so clearly as she said to me, “Caroline I know you have a choice school picked out but have you applied to any Oklahoma schools?” Respectfully, I smiled and said "No ma’am". She then said "It wouldn't hurt anything"…so I thought to myself “okay!” and I applied to OU.
I find it funny how at the same time I was waiting for scholarships from my preferred colleges of choice, there was one school that constantly kept sending me information: there’s only one.
One day I opened the mail and read that I had been selected as a Sooner Scout Ambassador. Not understanding the importance at the time I thought it was silly. I remember saying to myself “How and why would they send me this. I haven't even committed to this school so why would I want to be an ambassador?” And I'll never forget my mother saying, “Caroline I think you ought to look into it.” A week or two had passed and I received another letter in the mail saying I had been selected to be a part of President’s Leadership Class based on my academics and the leadership I had shown throughout high school.
And so here it is, I'm writing to you today as the underdog who came out on top from the University of Oklahoma. I encourage you that as you make one of the greatest choices in your life to remember not to be so focused on the things you want most but place priority on becoming a part of the things you need. My initial decision to attend an HBCU came from a desire to fit in, but I am here to tell you that it is impossible to fit in when you were born to stand out. Remember that growth comes from being uncomfortable. But again I say to you- “let your differences be your point of departure for success in college”- I did.
So who am I? My name is Caroline Bennett born and raised in North Tulsa Oklahoma I am a proud graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, the University of Oklahoma, and The Ohio State University. Allow my life and my story to be a testimony to all you can do at OU:
· A proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated
· A Ronald E. McNair Scholar
· Miss Black University of Oklahoma and Miss Black OK US Ambassador
· Study abroad scholar who traveled to Tanzania, Africa
· President’s Leadership Class Alumni
· Henderson Scholar Alumni
· A first-generation college student from the University of Oklahoma
So today I say thank you to the University of Oklahoma for taking me as I was so I could become who I am today. If you leave this letter with nothing please know the University of Oklahoma needs you and your story and your differences … I dare you to risk your comfort for change!
Caroline "Inspires" Nicole Bennett, B.A., M.A.