Meet the Author: Bernetta McCall-Millonde
I stand on the shoulders of giants. As an African American woman, a first-generation college student, and a college administrator, I know that the privileges I have are because of the courage, sacrifices, and dignity of my people who preceded me. My people who survived the Middle Passage and slavery; my people who rose to national prominence as civil rights leaders and freedom fighters during the 1950s and 1960s; and my people, my family, who guided me, encouraged me, and affectionately corrected me when I needed it.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I attended Public Schools (PS) 125, PS 327, and PS 275, before my parents moved us to Roosevelt, Long Island where I graduated from Roosevelt Junior / Senior High School. During my formative years, I enjoyed dancing, reading, and writing and learned to value education. I did not attend the best resourced schools; but I was fortunate to have a family and teachers who had high expectations of me. It is this upbringing, this value system, this way of relating to students, that allows me to live and work authentically as Director for Diversity Initiatives and Community Partners at Drexel University.
I left my predominately African American community and decided to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Never visiting, I chose VCU from the viewbook and the promise of becoming a print journalist as a communications major. Although I was still in an urban setting, I left my family and my community of black and brown people who shared my culture and value system. Culture shock may not be strong enough to describe how it felt to see only a handful of students who looked like me in my classes or to have my dance teacher for the first time in my amateur dance pursuits tell me my physique was not right for ballet or not be permitted to cover an event that my journalism teacher told me to write about (it was an event being hosted by the Daughters of the Confederacy).
I survived my time at VCU and what I learned in and out of the classroom has served me well. Now, I'm grateful that I've been positioned as Director for Diversity Initiatives and Community Partners to help students do more than survive at Drexel. Using a holistic, student-centered approach to recruitment and retention, my commitment is to help students thrive. I've come full circle and I'm both honored and humbled to have been entrusted to collaborate with community partners on pre-college access programming, to shepherd the Liberty Scholars through Drexel, and to support the other scholars we serve in the Center for Inclusive Education and Scholarship. I'll be using this blog to discuss and examine diversity, college access, challenges and triumphs of students navigating academia with a focus on first generation students, historically underrepresented students of color, and underserved students in both our urban centers and rural communities.