Celebrating Black History Month with 10 stories of black excellence at UMSL
Their talents range from a nationally recognized recording artist to a social work student counseling vulnerable youth. But no matter how they utilize their skill sets, these University of Missouri–St. Louis students and alumni are improving communities through civic engagement, academic achievement and a resilient spirit.
UMSL Daily is revisiting these inspiring stories from everyday people in our campus community as the university celebrates Black History Month.
Activist and entrepreneur Antionette Carroll is known for her passion for graphic design and her belief that she can use that medium to address social inequities. This combination made way for Creative Reaction Lab, a nonprofit that works to address local issues through equity-centered design. Carroll, who holds both a BS and an MA from UMSL, founded the organization in 2014 following civil unrest in her home of Ferguson, Missouri.
Warren Morgan has amassed an impressive resume since earning his MEd from UMSL in 2009. He’s served as academic superintendent for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s turnaround schools, as a high school principal in Chicago Public Schools and as a White House Fellow in Washington. He’s now using these experiences as the executive director of Teach for America–St. Louis.
Shortly after giving birth to her first son, DeAnna Anderson fell seriously ill and spent three months in the hospital, where she was later diagnosed with lupus. Despite the strain the systemic autoimmune disease placed on her body, the December College of Education graduate never wavered from her academic ambitions. She’s now substitute teaching for the Ferguson-Florissant School District as she prepares to apply for full-time positions for the upcoming school year.
Felesha Clarke made an impression on UMSL administrators even before enrolling for her first semester. The 2017 Lift for Life Academy valedictorian participated in UMSL’s Bridge Program throughout high school, so when she submitted her application for the Dr. Donald Suggs Scholarship, she was an ideal candidate. Clarke, who is the first recipient of the lucrative scholarship, plans to study in the UMSL/Washington University in St. Louis Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program.
Soul singer Brian Owens’ zest for life radiates through his music but is also evidenced in his everyday interactions. A familiar face on UMSL’s campus, Owens is often found at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center for a gig or collaborating with UMSL musicians. The Department of Music alumnus and Des Lee Fine Arts Collaborative community music artist in residence was recently on the UMSL stage as part of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance on Jan. 15.
A tumultuous childhood inspired master of social work student Chelsey Jacox to be the type of person she needed growing up. This ambition translates to her work with Youth in Need in St. Charles, Missouri, where she carries a caseload and assists with the teen parent and racial equity programs. Jacox plans to continue the internship with Youth in Need until her graduation in May. She hopes her work will encourage clients to also give back one day.
As the economic recovery coordinator for St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, Cordaryl Patrick spends the majority of his time working with the municipalities that were most impacted by civil unrest that occurred in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. Since taking the position in 2015, the MPPA graduate has been busy selling potential developers on these communities while also working to develop retail and commercial development programs.
When he’s not painting cleats for Los Angles Rams players or performing as a solo rap artist, Brock Seals is either at UMSL making progress toward his fine arts degree or working one of two jobs. His creative works have captured the attention of the St. Louis-Post Dispatch, which named him one of 10 “up-and-comers on the St. Louis arts scene” in July.
College of Business Administration alumna Opal Jones has made a career out of serving others. Now the CEO of DOORWAYS, she hopes to provide affordable and secure housing for people living with HIV/AIDS in the St. Louis region. Under her leadership, DOORWAYS has expanded its reach and further developed its holistic program offerings.
The Kansas City Public Schools system selected alumnus Derrik Wiggins as the Teacher of the Year in 2017. A third grade teacher at George Washington Carver Dual Language School, Wiggins is learning Spanish to better communicate with students and their family members. He also offers free home tutoring, volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters and serves on his school’s Parent Teacher Association.
To further celebrate Black History Month, several UMSL organizations have partnered for a series of events. Members of the campus community hosted a Soul Food Celebration and Black Love event Thursday as well as a screening of “Marshall” at the Millennium Student Center Friday. Upcoming events range from open forums to a high school step show. A full celebration lineup can be found here.
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