Patrika Brown inspired her fellow graduates during Stephens' May Commencement ceremony last weekend, encouraging them to not only be bold but also to be humble.
“The hardest thing about becoming a successful woman is to remember where you came from,” she told undergraduates. “No matter how high a tree climbs, its roots remain deep in the soil.”
Brown was the senior recipient of the 2014 Alumnae Association Board Scholarship, which earned her the privilege of addressing the senior class, as well as $250. Recipients are chosen based on academic excellence and contributions to campus life.
Brown earned a Bachelor of Science in Education and is now heading to Mississippi to complete training for Teach for America. After that, she’ll be assigned to teach at an urban school.
It’s not exactly the plan Brown had when she began her studies at Stephens four years ago.
Brown—the daughter of Amy Tatum Robinson ’95—had a 10-year plan that included becoming a teacher in a suburban district in Memphis.
But last semester, everything changed. Something inside her told her to look into Teach for America, a non-profit organization that enlists high-achieving college graduates to teach in low-income communities.
She applied on a whim, got an interview and was selected for the program.
“I ended my fairy tale thinking and completely changed my plans,” she said.
Brown credits a few experiences for contributing to her decision. She participated in a World Café event sponsored by Columbia Public Schools that enlisted the public to talk about closing the achievement gap between student groups. She also taught at a local elementary school, where she was especially drawn to helping at-risk children.
She’s already begun training on “no-nonsense nurturing,” and “I love what I’m learning,” she said.
At Commencement, she challenged graduates to show the world how bold they are.
“We must give back to our communities both mentally and physically,” she said. “But most of all we must bust through society’s limitations and dream up.”
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