Sun. May 26th, 2024

What made me come to West Chester?

I always say I got scammed into coming to West Chester. My first choice was Virginia State University, to which my dad said “No.” West Chester was my second choice. I did a bunch of research in looking for the right school for me. I wanted a good Journalism or Communications program because at the time I was convinced I was going to go into radio or podcasting and become a broadcast journalist. I was coming from a predominantly Black high school so I wanted to be around Black people and other people of color because that was my environment. I didn’t want to leave it. West Chester University seemingly checked all these boxes. That was until I actually came to campus. 

What was my experience at West Chester like?

My experience at West Chester was much like other Black students, except that I’m queer and nonbinary as well. Many times throughout my time here I noticed that there was a distinct contrast between how I was treated in Black spaces and how I was treated in queer spaces. I was too Black for queer people and too gay for Black people. It was strange. I never felt so seen yet so invisible at the same time. There was nothing I could say to stand out, and I don’t know if I really wanted to. I shut down in these spaces a lot. I didn’t feel like myself here, yet this was the most I ever got to know myself fully. I learned a lot about who I am and about how I am treated because of that. Being a queer, Black, nonbinary, tattooed, pierced academic in classes with people who knowingly or unknowingly judged me. I craved going home. I’d cry in my mother’s arms when she’d come pick me up. But I loved my freedom. I loved my space, whether people wanted to be in it or not. 

What was my program like?

When I initially came to West Chester, I started as a Media and Culture major. My first year was entirely online and because of that, I wasn’t able to fully gauge the energy of those I shared academic space with. I noticed how I was one of the only Black students in classes full of my White peers. It was awkward and I didn’t like that the work I did wasn’t reflecting anything too critical or aware. I wanted something more hands-on and practical. I changed my major to Anthropology and Sociology during my sophomore year. While this gave me more nuance to those around me, I still noticed a lack. I wanted to write more. I wanted to talk to people and really get to know them. I was already a Journalism minor and loved the work that I was doing. So I eventually made the decision to become an English major. 

What did I do at West Chester?

I held several positions during my undergrad. I started as a Peer Educator at the Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy during my sophomore year. In that position, I was able to learn more about myself and helped others become better advocates for themselves and others. It was during my sophomore year that I also became more involved in my student organizations. I became the secretary and treasurer of the National Association of Black Journalists and was the Co-Fundraising Chair for Poesis, Campus Creatives. I would go on to become President of NABJ and Secretary of Poesis during my junior year, before eventually becoming President of Poesis this year. In my junior year, I also worked as the Social Justice Education Student Assistant at the Dowdy Multicultural Center as well as being a Peer Mentor. I’m currently the Equity Communications Coordinator Intern for the College of Arts and Humanities after being a Copy Editor at The Quad Newspaper. 

I did a lot. While I do regret taking on some of these responsibilities because I am known for overworking myself, I am glad that I got the experience and opportunities that came with these involvements.  

What are my plans after graduation?

I will be continuing my education at Goucher College in Towson, MD. I will be a part of the low-residency MFA in Nonfiction program where I will be growing as a writer. I want to write about history, art and film and do more research in the humanities. I want to become a researcher with no deadlines. Simply writing and reading just because I can. I’m looking forward to getting a full-time job and my license this year as well. I’m aiming for a better work-life balance going into adulthood.


Shelby Lewis is a fourth-year English major with a minor in journalism.

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