When you hear people talk about “giving back,” it’s often after finishing college or settling into a career. But for College Track Oakland graduate Tevah El Emmet, giving back started early – in high school.
Using his knack for hip-hop and spoken-word, Tevah began visiting other Bay Area high schools to perform in front of his peers. One of his songs, “Addicted,” was a cautionary narrative about drug abuse and other forms of addiction. Realizing the song resonated with other kids, Tevah’s mother suggested that Tevah not only perform the song, but start a dialogue with other students about it.
“That evolved into me doing workshops,” explains Tevah. “I’ll be the first in my family to graduate from college, and I think along with that comes a responsibility to give back. I look at growing up in West Oakland and I’m fortunate and blessed to have a lot of opportunities regardless of my circumstances.”
Since high school, Tevah’s community-oriented mindset has expanded even further. Now at George Mason University and set to graduate in 2014 with a major in advertising and a minor in entrepreneurship, he regularly leads workshops in urban high schools on a range of topics: the importance of college, growing up against a backdrop of poverty and violence, self-expression through creative writing, diversity training, and more.
Tevah also gives back directly to College Track, volunteering at events whenever he’s in the Bay Area. At each event, he is struck by the wide reach of College Track as the organization grows: “There are now so many [College Track grads] out there in careers that I can reach out to, and new staff at College Track. I feel like I’m forever in a family, and it’s with us wherever we go.” For Tevah, the College Track family is both figurative and literal - his younger brother, Jahntu, joined the program this year as a freshman. “I expect great things from him,” Tevah said.
“I’ve had a couple difficult things occur in college and been able to connect with College Track to support me in getting through whatever’s going on at the moment. Some other [non-profits] might not have as much invested in student success, but the beauty of College Track is that they’re there with us all the way through, and they never forget that we are the face of the organization. To any new students coming into the program now, I would just say, ‘Welcome to my family.’”
College Tours Expand Horizons
While on a College Track tour of Washington, DC schools during high school, Tevah discovered his guide was from Oakland. “We were really excited to meet an Oakland graduate going to school on the East Coast,” Tevah recalls. “He told us that when he first visited the school, he stepped on campus and just felt something that told him it was the place for him. I told myself, right then, that before the end of that tour I was going to walk onto a campus and think, wow, this is the one.”
He got that feeling at George Mason. “And now I’m here, and I love it. By giving us the chance to go on that tour, College Track just opened up the whole idea that we could go to college outside the Bay Area, that there are so many places you can go. College Track expanded my horizons and led me to be open to new things, and that’s helped me make connections because the program set that theme for us early on, in high school.”