AN AGGIE IS BORN
Nia White ‘20 doesn’t have the traditional Aggie story. No one in her family attended Texas A&M. In fact, Nia didn’t even know she wanted to apply to Texas A&M until her senior year of high school. But a college admission program known as the Posse Foundation led her to Aggieland.
As an Atlanta native, White attended Westlake High School in Georgia. Her school was a partner of the Posse Foundation, which is “rooted in the belief that a small, diverse group of talented students—a Posse—carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development.” More specifically, the Posse Foundation identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by the college selection process and creates a support system for these students.
White was nominated for the program and underwent an intensive application process where students and colleges interview each other to find potential matches that would be mutually beneficial. As a Posse Scholar, White was awarded full tuition to a school of her choice and she chose Texas A&M.
“I was really attracted to the whole idea of the Aggie Network and being able to connect with people and the fact that anywhere you go in the world, if they know that you're an Aggie, they're going to help you out to the best of their ability,” White said.
She and other students who chose Aggieland were placed in “posses”—or supportive, multicultural groups of 10 or 12 students who act as a support system for each other as they navigate college. With her posse intact, White headed to College Station ready to start the next journey of her life.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Upon arrival, she experienced culture shock. Westlake High is a suburban school made up of about 96 percent African Americans, whereas African American students make up about 3 percent of Texas A&M’s student body. But after her first game day at Kyle Field and witnessing the Corps of Cadets, she experienced her first taste of the Aggie Spirit and knew she had made the right decision.
While in Aggieland, White made the most of her time. She chose community health as a major and psychology as a minor. She had taken a psychology course as an elective and wanted to take more. Her interest in the health field started in high school and strengthened as she began learning more about health disparities and health inequity. This interest led her to serve as a research assistant for Dr. Jeffrey Guidry on the Health Disparities, Education, Awareness, Research and Training Consortium (HDEART-C) within the Department of Health and Kinesiology. Her experience helped land her an internship with the Transdisciplinary Center for Health Equity Research, which
is also housed in the Department
of Health and Kinesiology within the College of Education and Human Development.
Her other extracurricular activities included Eta Sigma Gamma, which is the honorary student health society for health majors. She was also inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Eta Sigma and pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
When White wasn’t busy as a student leader, she was just as dedicated in the classroom. She received the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) Dean's Development Council Scholarship, and held the titles of Dean's Honor Roll Student and CEHD Distinguished Student. White said it was difficult, yet rewarding to manage school and her interests.
“It was definitely a lot of work, but I'm extremely glad that I did that,” she said. “Thankfully, I had the ability to balance out school and my extracurriculars.”
Outside of her studies and organizations, White found comfort in the Department of Multicultural Services and the Memorial Student Center (MSC) Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee (BAC). Founded in 1969, the BAC took on the charge of addressing issues directly affecting Black students at Texas A&M University and providing cultural programming for the entire university community.
Although created strictly as a programming committee, at one time the BAC was the preeminent voice for Black students on campus. Concerns it addressed included: infusing more African American culture into the university curriculum, increasing recruitment and retention of African American students and staff and obtaining more African American literature in the campus library.
In 2004, the organization re-established itself as the Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee (WBAC). During her time at Texas A&M, White served as the Diaspora Education Director at the WBAC.
“It was empowering to be in these spaces to have your voice heard and have a seat at the table, in a sense,” White said. “There are spaces for Black people and for minority people, where we get to, you know, be around each other and have that ability to feel comfortable. You're around people who not only look like you, but they understand you. They understand your experiences.”
She added that Delta Sigma Theta and the Divine Nine Greek organizations serve as leaders of the Black community on campus and also provide safe spaces for Black students.
White advises prospective Black students who are worried about experiencing a culture shock to get involved.
“Utilize those spaces that are created for you and you will have a much better experience,” she said.
White graduated this spring with a B.S. in Community Health. Since then, she has been applying for jobs and internships while safely quarantining with her family. She said the pandemic has made the job hunting process unique, but she is still working diligently.
She plans to pursue a master’s degree in Public Health starting in the fall of 2021 and is considering programs at Morehouse, Emory and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While graduating in the middle of a pandemic has created some uncertainties, White is sure she wants to continue the work she started while interning with the Transdisciplinary Center for Health Equity Research.
“I feel that no matter how small the task, every action I did contributed to the dismantling of health disparities,” she said. “Even the slightest movement in the right direction is still profound and contributes to change. Ultimately, I hope to contribute to that movement by working in policy, research and/or community engagement.”