In 2021, Jamira Collins, a high school graduate of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women (BLSYW), recited her valedictory. One quote in her speech said, “The sky is not the limit, it’s only the beginning.” She wanted her classmates to know that: “You can have the sun, moon, stars, universe if that’s what you’re going for. No one can stop you. Self-doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
Collins–a 19–year–old Baltimore City native from a low-income, predominantly Black neighborhood–started her college career during the COVID–19 pandemic. She is a first-gen, second-year Northeastern University student studying psychology and economics and is a Ujima Global Leaders Program participant. Attending Northeastern was a big shift for her; she previously spent seven years in an all-girls school where other students looked like her. Collins didn’t experience culture shock at Northeastern, however. She knew where she applied to and knew what she wanted.
Collins immersed herself in another culture outside of the U.S. last Spring—she studied in Greece, taking four classes at the American College of Thessaloniki. She says spending four months in “[Greece] was an experience [in and] of itself, the culture is completely different. … One thing I learned about being in Greece was just how collective they work as a society of people.” Overall, she enjoyed her study abroad experience, noting she would do it “a hundred times over” if she could. While abroad, she hiked up Mount Olympus, partook in Greek Halloween, and visited Athens. She enjoyed traveling within Europe, too, specifically to Paris, France—visiting the Palace of Versailles, Disneyland Paris, and the Eiffel Tower with friends.
Upon her return to campus in September, she learned about the Institute’s Legacy Mentoring and Leadership Program from Cinqué Dunham-Carson—who runs both the Ujima Global Leaders and Legacy Mentoring and Leadership programs—at a Ujima meeting. At the Legacy interest meeting, Collins wore a hoodie she purchased in Greece, which led a mentee, who she had a prior encounter with at the JDOAAI’s Open House in September, to approach her. The mentee told Collins she was in the ACT/Global Quest program where she would be going to Greece next spring—she wanted to connect with Collins before making her final decision to go to the country. The two were eventually paired and have been in classes together. Collins says, “I really like that I was able to help her, so she inspired me to apply to become a mentor, and now she’s my mentee, which is funny, so shout out to her.”
Aside from her involvement in the Legacy Mentoring and Leadership and Ujima Global Leaders programs, Collins is involved with Barkada, a student organization embracing Filipino culture. She dances with the Caribbean Students’ Organization Dance Troupe and tries to support every Black student organization on campus. She also attends JDOAAI programs and events: “I’ve been to everything. I’m not even going to be smart or funny, I’ve been to everything,” she says with a chuckle. This year, she says she visits the Institute every day, multiple times a day. “I just enjoy being at the Tute, it’s literally my home away from home,” she adds. Collins likes that she can visit the offices of Ms. Elizabeth “Liz” Clark or Dr. Denise Douglas and start a conversation without being pushed away. “I remember this one time I was sick. … Old bay seasoning is a really big thing in Maryland because [of] the blue crab, and that’s the seasoning we use to season the crabs, and Ms. Liz bought me a bag of crab chips,” says Collins. The gesture from her first semester on campus—when Collins didn’t know Ms. Clark as long as she does now—made her cry. “I was like, ‘Wow, I will never forget this woman, ever.”
For the remainder of her undergraduate career, Collins hopes to do another study abroad and dialogue, and next Fall, she will start her first co-op experience. “I don’t know what I want to do as far as a co-op … I’m one of those people that likes trying different stuff, so if I find something, and it looks interesting to me, imma do it,” she says. Moreover, Collins wants to solely study psychology, instead of psychology and economics, and do Northeastern’s PlusOne program in applied psychology. She aspires to be a neonatal psychologist, so she is interested in doing Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program too.
As for Black alumni coming across Collins’s spotlight and what she would like them to know about her and Northeastern today, Collins says, “I don’t want to say our time has come, but our time has come. … As we evolve and time moves forward, our presence here just becomes bigger and bigger. And, with our new upcoming generation, I can say … there’s a lot of advocacy, and a lot of leadership that I have seen in this community that we have here. A lot of people are very passionate about things that they’re doing, and I think that’s going to be a catalyst for change in the upcoming years.”