Scholar Spotlight

Five Minutes with Ezrelle

College: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Major: Computer Science
Year: 2015 Dell Scholar

You began your academic career at Hamline University and then spent some time at a local community college before transferring to the University of Minnesota, correct?
Yes, I started at Hamline and did not perform as well as I would have wanted to. At that time, my grandma, who was basically my mom, was dying. On top of that, while she was in the hospital, I was spending most of my time working to get her house up to code in order to avoid eviction by the city. Nearly every day I would stop by the hospital on my way home from classes to check on her. Soon my grandmother passed and I hit my low point. I dropped out of Hamline and was homeless for a bit until a close friend was able to provide me a place to live.

How did you get back on track?
I took a year away from school and I got a good working car so that I could drive myself to and from school. Rather than return to Hamline, I decided to enroll at Normandale Community College. My cousin had said that Normandale was a favored community college of the University of Minnesota, so I enrolled in math and later changed to computer science. At this time, I also began providing for my brothers and sisters who were jumping from place to place without steady housing. My mother had struggled with drug addiction for years. I now take care of them, with the help of my adult cousin and brother, full-time. But my time at Normandale allowed me to re-engage academically and I found my footing again and have since enrolled at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities. Now my day to day revolves around classes, an internship with Cargill, paperwork and appointments for my siblings, and homework.

Wow, that is incredible that you have been able to take on so much both academically and as a provider for your family. While you were at Normandale, were there any resources that you leveraged to get back on track?
I would start by saying that without my friend who provided me housing, I would probably still be homeless today. My college readiness programs, including Genesys Works and College Possible were always there for me as well. They helped me plan the proper class schedules so that every class I took would transfer successfully to the University of Minnesota.

How do you manage school on top of your family responsibilities?
I make sure that I am either studying or supporting my siblings. If I can, I’ll try to find time to do homework when I have breaks during my weekend job and sometimes at my internship. I also make sure I have free time on Tuesdays and Thursdays mornings to talk to my professors about things I don’t understand. If I am not taking my siblings to appointments or therapy, that also becomes study or homework time.

I plan and use my time efficiently, I spend almost every waking moment trying to better myself or my family. I try to instill good habits into my siblings and I also always stress the importance of education. I put a quote on the fridge that says, “Only the educated are free.” I also try instill the values and morals of self-worth, generosity, education, and caring for your family and fellow human. Basically I rely on my routine and then everything becomes easier.

As a transfer student, what is something you’d like to pass onto your fellow Scholar going through a similar process?
Talk to your adviser as soon as possible and start planning your transfer from day 1. Also, make sure all your credits transfer and to take all the classes you can take at your community college that you know will transfer. I also recommend taking summer classes, my financial aid for the spring semester would roll over for the summer semester and basically pay for most of my classes.

Once you transfer, making a good group of friends and getting involved in clubs on campus doesn’t hurt. I have a good group of friends that I study with and we teach each other. If you are still undecided in college you need to decide on your major. I personally think no one should go to college unless they know what they want to do.