JAMEIRA: I have realized that I've actually made an impact on people. When I give those care calls out to students, there are so many students who are just relieved and very grateful, you can just hear it in their voice and they're like, “oh my gosh, thank you for calling.” So it makes me grateful to know that I am in some way making an impact on someone else's life.
Welcome to season four of Redefine U. I’m Dan Baum. Join us as we continue to explore what happens when we’re challenged to change our thoughts, beliefs or even who we think we are.
We ended our last season thinking about the future of education. The pandemic forced so many of us to redefine how we attend, support and structure school – almost exclusively from a distance. Makeshift desks and workstations at home have become long-term classrooms for all ages. After nearly a year of this, what’s working? What needs improvement? What do we want to keep moving forward?
In this episode, we’ll talk with Jameira Eades, a business major. When classes shifted online, Jameira left her four-year university to return home and attend AACC. The decision brought unexpected lessons in embracing opportunity and the joy that comes from making a positive impact.
JAMEIRA: My name is Jameira Eades. I am a student at AACC. As I am a transfer student, I actually went to a four-year university for my first year of college, so technically this is my second year of college, but I am still kind of new to AACC. I was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. I love it here, and I've loved AACC so far.
DAN: That's great. Welcome Jameira. It's nice to talk to you. How are you holding up during the pandemic?
JAMEIRA: I'm doing good, very well. I feel like things are kind of, not dying down, but we're getting used to things, everyone's kind of settling in. Unfortunately, this is our reality for a little while, so I'm actually getting used to it.
DAN: So how has the transition to online learning been?
JAMEIRA: It's actually been a little better than I expected. I know at my four-year university for my first year we had spring break and then we never went back to school. It was, you know, classes are online. So I was actually panicking a little bit, like I don't know how I'm going to do this, I'm just used to, I have my certain schedule of going to class, I have my routine with my friends on campus. So I was a little skeptical about how things were going to go, but it's actually been way better than I expected. Now here at AACC, the professors are very understanding, they communicate well with their students. So it's actually going pretty well.
DAN: That's good to hear. So you didn't start at AACC. What was your original plan? Tell us a little bit about your original pursuit.
JAMEIRA: I am a first-generation college student, so that was very important to me, and I really wanted to go to an HBCU, and then I also really wanted to go to a college away from home. So I decided to go to Winston-Salem State, in North Carolina, and that's about a six hour drive. So my plan was, I'm going to get this college education away from home. I'm going to be great, do good in school. And then the pandemic hit
DAN: Since you started at a four year, was there any social stigma with coming to a two-year college?
JAMEIRA: I'm glad you asked that because absolutely. And even before attending my four-year university, in high school, there's just this people in your ear saying, you should go to a four year, you should do this, you should do that. And like you said, there's this social stigma that community college just isn't the same. You don't get the same education. You don't get the same experiences. And I want to tell people that that is absolutely incorrect.
I feel like I'm way more involved here at a community college. I've gotten so many more opportunities and I cannot believe that I allowed myself to listen to that stigma of not going to a community college because of what other people said, or their experiences, or what have you. I am totally glad that I have attended AACC. I have heard, even before I have attended, that there are so many qualifications that AACC has, so many rankings the AACC has. And I just don't think that everyone's perception about community colleges are true. I feel like the community college has done so much more for me than some four-year universities could have, or I feel like so many students get so many more opportunities, again, they get more financial aid. It allows them to relax a little bit when they're at a community college, rather than they may feel so uptight, they may feel a little pressure when they're attending a four-year university. So again, do not listen to those naysayers. If you know that a four university is not for you and you want to go to a community college, that's exactly what you should do.
DAN: I appreciate your candor. I'm curious what your thoughts are what's behind that stigma and what you would do to help change that if you could?
JAMEIRA: I'm honestly not quite sure why there's just this stigma of a four-year university is automatically better. I've never really understood it. When you think about it, a community college is so much more cheaper. You're taking the same classes, again, for a lower price. And then if you're doing a transfer study, you can transfer all those credits to a four-year university. Think about it. You're staying at home. You don't have to pay for housing. There's just so much things about a community college that I feel are very beneficial to students.
DAN: What are some examples?
JAMEIRA: Some things, even though I was involved on my campus, at my four-year university, I feel like I'm way more involved now, here at AACC I am a campus ambassador. I'm also the student navigator for the Office of Student Engagement. I've just met so many great people. I've just had so many opportunities fall into my lap. I feel like that was something that was missing at my four-year university. And it's kind of crazy because here at AACC, when you look at the student dynamic and how many students we have, we actually have more students than back at my four-year university, we had about maybe like 6,000 students, which is nothing compared to AACC. But I have more of a family dynamic here at AACC, even though the school is bigger, even though there's more students, I feel more closeness in the community here.
DAN: That's so counterintuitive when we're remote like this. So how have you been able to get so involved when you're not physically on campus the way you were at your four year?
JAMEIRA: Definitely Zoom. I know a lot of people use Zoom. When you think about, oh, you have these classes virtually, you don't think that it's going to make an impact, but it seems like it has, even my professors when they see me at certain meetings or something, they say, “Oh, I remember I had you during my class,” even though it was virtual, they still remember students' faces. They still remember this person and that person, they still remember little details that they have learned about teaching us, but Zoom has been amazing, surprisingly. And then as a campus ambassador, all of our events are through Zoom. We have movie nights where we all get together on Zoom and watch a movie. We talk in the chat while the movie is going on. So even though none of these events are in person, we still have a close connection, it feels like a family.
DAN: That's impressive. You said you're an ambassador. What are the different activities you're involved in and what do you typically do in those roles?
JAMEIRA: If we were in-person, we would host campus tours, we would still have, all of our programming on campus. And now that we're virtual, we have movie nights, we have a lot of fun activities for the ambassadors, again, to mingle and get to know each other, but outside of the fun events, we also have important events. So we just did a new year resolution workshop. So it's a great mixture. We do workshops such as things like financial information. You know, some students our age don't know much about finances. So we have certain professors from different departments come and host a workshop and they tell us very important things, like we've had someone from the health department and they come and they tell us certain important information that they feel students need to know about certain health and certain diets and things like that.
DAN: And what is it that you host yourself?
JAMEIRA: Yes. So it's, “Just Live with JAMEIRA.” That is in conjunction with the Office of Student Engagement. So like I said, I am the student navigator, so I go live on Instagram and I talk about topics that I feel, or that I know that students have questions about. And so I get those topics from me giving care calls. And so during my care calls I may say, "Hey, I just wanted to check in to see how you're doing during the semester, to see if you have any questions. Is there anything I can help you with?" And a lot of times, just for record, I take just a slight note on what the student may ask, or the student may talk about, or any confusion that they may have, so then I go back and then look at those topics, and then I prepare those for Instagram live sessions.
So some previous sessions that I've hosted were advising. So how do I talk to my advisor is a good question that students have, how do I know who my advisor is? Is another good one. Things like financial aid, how do I get in contact with the financial aid office? How do I know how much financial aid I have been given? Other things like, how do I register for my classes? How do I know what classes I need to register for? So those are just some great questions that students come up with. So I always try to address those questions on the phone, but my Instagram live sessions allow students to go back to those live sessions and preview those videos later on.
DAN: I'm just so impressed, JAMEIRA, you're in your second year, but you're in your first year here at the college, so you're involved in all these activities, you're doing outreach calls, these care calls, this, Just Live sessions, that's so impressive how active you are in this remote environment.
What are you hearing most from your fellow students when you talk to them?
JAMEIRA: So I'm hearing mixed reviews. There are some students who obviously like all of us who want to be on campus. They prefer to interact with their friends, actually see their professors face-to-face. But then I also hear the other side of it that some people actually like the virtual setting because it allows them to have more flexibility when it comes to their work schedules, or their family needs, or some students have children. So it allows them to take care of themselves as far as their education, but it also allows them to take care of themselves at home, at work, things like that.
So, I do hear different aspects of it. Some love it. Some don't love it as much, but I think overall, as far as the professors, they've been very, very patient with students, they've been patient with themselves. So overall it's just a learning aspect for everyone.
DAN: Well, you also find time to study somehow. So tell me a little bit about what you're studying, your major, and how you chose to pursue that path?
JAMEIRA: Yes. So I am studying business administration. I am going to transfer that to a university, I'm not sure if I'm going to go back to my previous four-year university, but I am a business transfer student. And I'm thinking about concentrating in marketing. I'm not really sure about my concentration, but I always knew that business was just something that I was interested in, I was always interested in anything when it comes to interacting with people, but also on how things work.
DAN: Did you have reservations or concerns about changing schools mid-journey?
JAMEIRA: Actually, yes, I did. And sometimes I still think about, okay, if I decide to go back to my four-year university, although I still talk to my friends from there, I think, wow, is everything going to be the same? How's it going to be when I go back? Will I even want to go back? I'm not sure how I'll feel, as if do I fit in, do I not fit in? Do I feel at home anymore? So I think about that a lot. So, that's just something that I will just have to keep in my mind when it comes to where I decide to actually transfer out to.
DAN: Initially what convinced you that this was the right decision?
JAMEIRA: Well, when the pandemic hit and then my four-year university, Winston-Salem State, the UNC system, they said that if students got sent home again, it was not guaranteed that we will get refunds for meal plans and for housing. And obviously everything was so much up in the air during that time, when the fall semester was going to start, and I said, "I don't want to take that chance," as well as my school had said that they were doing virtual classes and I'm like, "Well, why am I paying all this money just to have virtual classes when I can stay at home, save money, we all know that AACC is way more affordable." So I said, "Well, AACC is doing virtual classes as well, so I might as well stay home, save money and get the same experience, get the same credits, get those same classes."
DAN: Sounds like a very smart business decision you made there.
DAN: So you mentioned you're a first-generation student, has that been challenging in any way, and have you had any helpers along the journey?
JAMEIRA: That's a good question. It actually has been a little challenging, obviously like many other first-generation students, there's just so much information, and because I am the first one in my family, no one else in my family knew about that information. So I couldn't necessarily say, Hey mom, when you went to college, how did this work? Because she didn't go to college, she didn't know. And then for my brother, he went to a trade school. So that was something totally different. So everything was so difficult for me. A lot of things I had to figure out on my own, or I had go to an outside source to learn about. So things like how the admission process works for colleges, or financial aid. I didn't know what FAFSA was, from my family, they didn't know what it was, they didn't attend college. And even how to get scholarships, where to get scholarships, how to write those essays in order to get those scholarships or in order to get into those certain colleges. So yeah, it has been a little bumpy road, but I think I'm very good now.
DAN: Yeah. There's no evidence from my standpoint that you've had any bumps along the way. Clearly you've really navigated it well. And now you're advising other people on what to do.
What have you gained most by attending AACC?
JAMEIRA: I have definitely gained friendships. I have definitely gained a network of people that I can count on. So I know one person, the director of Office of Student Engagement, Amberdawn, I love her, I tell her so many times, thank you for mentioning my name in this setting. Thank you for mentioning my name to this person, to that person. And so it has taught me that word of mouth is very powerful because that's how I've gotten a lot of my opportunities. So just like this opportunity now I'm being on the podcast, it came from word of mouth. It came from someone seeing what I couldn't see in myself. It came from me just being myself and someone loving who I was, what I do, and things like that.
DAN: Through these experiences have you found that you've changed your self-perception in any way?
JAMEIRA: I would say yes. I have realized that I am much stronger than I thought I was. I have realized that I've actually made an impact on people, so like when I give those care calls out to students, there are so many students who are just relieved and very grateful, you can just hear it in their voice and they're like, Oh my gosh, thank you for calling. They're relieved when I answer their questions, they're relieved when they know that they have a student voice to talk to and come to if they have any problems. It just makes me so happy, it makes me grateful to know that I am in some way making an impact on someone else's life.
DAN: That makes me happy too. That's one of my core values and our team, which you mentioned, you're studying marketing, our strategic communications team, that's one of our core team values, is impact. So you can make a positive impact in lots of different things you do, and you're clearly already are doing that.
So let's talk a little bit about the future. Short-term you said you're not thinking necessarily that you're going to return to the school that you started at for four year. What's your thinking behind that?
JAMEIRA: Well, I can already tell you, and you've heard it yourself that I'm way more involved here, and I didn't realize how uninvolved I was until I got to AACC. So knowing how involved I can be, I wish I could stay at AACC honestly, but I really want to make sure that I attend a college where I can help others, where I can get as involved as I am here at AACC, and just attend a college where I can help other people, where I can make a difference. So I'm still doing a little digging, I'm not really sure where I want to go. Obviously my heart is still kind of in North Carolina at Winston-Salem State, because I started off there, again, like I say, my whole plan was to finish my four years there, but I'm still not really sure. I'm sure I'll figure it out sooner or later.
DAN: Let's look long term. If you could dream a little, what would be your ideal in the future?
JAMEIRA: Let's see, I'm all over. I think about sometimes owning my own business. I've always been told, and I know, that I've always just been an independent person, in a way I kind of like being in charge. So I think having a business would be something that I would greatly enjoy, but I'm really not sure about that. Also, I would love to work for a marketing firm. Everything depends on marketing. So that's another reason why I'm thinking about choosing my concentration as marketing. I just feel like it's something that's so important in today's time with social media, with engaging with people. So between becoming my own business owner and, or, going into marketing, I think that's where I'll end up.
DAN: I'll support that. I applaud that. So you probably know our theme is redefine, that's the name of our podcast. So would you say along the way you've been redefining yourself?
JAMEIRA: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that me coming to AACC has helped redefine who I am. So again, throughout high school, I wasn't really someone that really got too involved. It was more so I would go to school, go to work, go home, repeat. I was in maybe one or two clubs, but I was never that person that was just overly involved. I didn't do any sports. I wasn't involved in this, I wasn't involved in that. And now that I am involved in so much, I think that it has just changed me for the better, I'm grateful for all the opportunities that I have come across. I'm also grateful for allowing myself to be vulnerable and accept so many positions. So yeah, I just love it. And I know I have redefined myself.
DAN: That's great. Well with that, I'm wondering what advice you'd offer fellow students or people who are considering doing what you did, whether it's to transfer or become a student that's first-generation, or get more active, what advice would you offer others?
JAMEIRA: I would definitely say to, one, trust your gut. So I know part of me when the pandemic hit, I said, "Do I really want to move back home?" And my gut told me moving back home was the correct thing to do. I knew that deep down. So I definitely made that decision. And then, two, allow yourself to be vulnerable. You may come across an opportunity and deep down you're saying, I know I should do it, but I'm nervous, or I don't really know these people, or I'm not that experienced. I promise you, you will come around, once you come across that opportunity and you complete it, you will understand that it was meant for you. So just don't be afraid to go out here and tackle things, any opportunity, that will come to you, I would say, take full advantage of it because it can make a difference in your life.
DAN: Great advice, Jameira, you are rocking it. And it's really great talking to you. So thank you for all that you're doing for your fellow students in our community.
JAMEIRA: Thank you for having me
DAN: Take care and be well.
JAMEIRA: Thank you. Bye-bye.
Jameira trusted her gut and transferred from a four-year institution to AACC. She initially did it to save money and safely continue her education during the pandemic, but the result was better than she expected. By making herself vulnerable and open to change, Jameira found opportunity, friendships and a way to make a difference in her new community.
Having a positive impact is important to Jameira. It’s important to me too. As I’ve mentioned on this podcast, it’s one of the core values of our Strategic Communications team. For me, it’s core to who I am, whether as a parent, husband, friend, co-worker, leader or any number of hats I might wear. One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, which I keep at my desk and see every day. While it’s a long quote, the essence of its message begins in the middle: “to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, THIS is to have succeeded.”
You don’t have to create a podcast or work directly with students to inspire change. We all have that power. And yes, sometimes change is the result of a big lightning strike moment. But just as often, it can be the result of a seemingly small thing: a teacher’s encouraging word, a friend who listens, or a care call from a fellow student at your school.
What ways can you make a positive impact in your community?
Redefine U is a production of Anne Arundel Community College. Our executive producer and creative director is Allison Baumbusch. Our producer is Jeremiah Prevatte and our writer, Amy Carr Willard.
Others who helped with this podcast include Amanda Behrens, Angie Hamlet, Ben Pierce and Alicia Renehan.
Special thanks to Jameira Eades.
Find show notes, how to subscribe and other extras on our website: aacc.edu/podcast.
I’m your host and creator of this podcast, Dan Baum. Thanks for listening.