As a first-generation college student, I was nervous about what was ahead of me when starting at Winona State University. Nevertheless, I was excited about what was in store.

After getting on campus, I was faced with a new world of situations, people, and opportunities. As a person of color, I had to work hard to ensure that I had connections and a clear path to where I wanted to go. Knowing that my time here at WSU was valuable, it was important to have meaningful relationships that stayed positive and opportunities to voice my dreams in the hope that those connections would later help me along my path.

One thing that has helped and supported me throughout my four years here was the TRIO program. The program helped me understand finances, create my class schedule, and really helped me envision the next steps for my future.

But I’d say one of the biggest reasons for my experience at WSU being positive was because of my willingness to go outside of my comfort zones and take steps to ensure my own future. I ran for Student Senate, visited the KEAP Center, and joined the Black Student Union.

Joining the Black Student Union was important to me. I wanted to connect with other students, talk about being Black in America, showcase Black talent, learn more about Black culture, and educate others — like we do during Black History Month.

To me, Black History Month is a celebration of the importance of Black individuals and our contributions to society.

And to further celebrate Black History Month, I interviewed my fellow peers and asked them what Black History Month means to them, as well as what does it mean to be a Black student on the WSU’s campus.

Here’s what they had to say with their quotes being lightly edited:

Jasmine Evans-Curry ‘22

What Black history month means to me is a time of acknowledgment and bringing awareness to our Black culture and the Black community. What we have done as the Black community to uplift ourselves and come together as a community is wonderful. We keep building our brands and work hard to overcome what we have suffered and gone through to show that we’re still here and we’re going to keep growing as a community.

Being a Black student means that I can stand out and show diversity to Winona. I feel like I bring diversity and a different culture to Winona and show others about different communities. I feel supported through the resources on campus such as the KEAP Center, TRIO program, the Social Work Club, and Student Senate.

Lydia Obang ‘24

Black history month is the month of celebrating and honoring Black excellence and Black culture. A month to recognize all our committee’s leaders/members who fought for our freedom and equality. 

Being a Black student at WSU means being different. But I’ve felt seen and valued by Linda Waldo who is the advisor for Black Student Union, by Dr. Jonathan Locust, and by the Black Student Union because I have been recognized as being different.

Linda especially made me feel a part of her family the first time I met her. She had a welcoming smile, gave me a warm hug, and offered me opportunities on campus. Her welcoming presence has made me feel comfortable to always ask for help during the times when I need it.

Anasia Phillips ‘22

Black History Month means a celebration for Black people and a reminder that we will have a long way to go in this county for Black people in America to have more equality and inclusivity. We need more resources to better help us now as a generation and to better what’s next to come.

Being a Black student at Winona state means I’m an outcast but I also stand out. Being the only person of color in a room can be intimidating but it only makes me want to work harder to stand out among the others. I want to be successful and be seen as capable of achieving anything. A lesson I have learned here is that others will always see me as Black first.

Emmanuel Adeniyi ‘23

Black History Month is a time for us to recognize not only the struggles and hardships that African Americans have endured throughout American History, but also their achievements and impact on American culture. Without these accomplishments and triumphs, this country would not be where it is today.

Being a Black student on campus means you’re a part of the minority. As a Black person, it’s important to know who you are and the responsibility that comes with being on a predominantly white institution (PWI) campus.

But I’ve felt supported on campus by Tyler Treptow-Bowman, Dr. Jonathan Locust, and Linda Waldo who really go up and beyond to make students — more specifically students of color — feel welcome, feel appreciated, and really feel that they belong on the WSU campus. Whether that is helping them out academically, socially with life, or living in Winona.

Darius Manuel ‘22

Black History Month means the world to me because it gives me 28 days to learn more about my history as a Black person and all that I didn’t previously know.

At a predominantly white institution, it’s important to me that people understand that I am here. Be courteous of those around you because you don’t know about their background.

Blessing Ojo ‘22

Black History Month to me means that I get to celebrate all Black achievements and accomplishments. It also helps me understand how we got to our present day in society and what events led up to that.

Being a Black student on WSU’s campus to me means that I get to take pride in my education and academic success. I’m in the STEM field and there isn’t a lot of Black students there. I get to show my pride through my academics and hard work in hopes of adding to the 1-3% of Black female doctors in the future.