Quenarii Lampkin always dreamed of going to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), but her dream unraveled after a semester at Hampton University in Virginia, when the grants and scholarships she had counted on failed to materialize. Her savings gone, Quenarii reluctantly returned to South LA in 2017. To her delight, at SMC she found a way to have the HBCU experience she longed for — by getting involved with the Black Collegians-Umoja Community.
Quenarii didn’t just sign up with the academic support program. She became a board member in the Black Collegians student club, then rose through the ranks from publicity director to secretary to vice president to two-term president.
There were rough patches along the way. Quenarii gets no help from her family and works full-time to pay her bills. She’s no stranger to food insecurity. At times she came close to dropping out.
Through it all, Black Collegians was a life-raft. “I got the same nurturing that you would get from an HBCU through Black Collegians,” she said “I don’t know where I would be academically — or even in life — without being a part of this program.”
As she sprinted toward graduation, the pandemic erected new hurdles. Laid off from her job at the Clayton Children’s Museum, Quenarii now works the graveyard shift at an Amazon warehouse in Pasadena. It’s exhausting physical labor, stowing heavy boxes by zip code at a brisk, mandated pace. It’s also unhealthy work; 10 warehouse co-workers have already come down with the coronavirus.
But this 22-year-old Psychology major is nothing if not resilient. In the fall, Quenarii will transfer to Cal State Dominguez Hills. Her long-term goal; to be a clinical psychologist.
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