Fictive Kinship & Welcoming College Campuses | Not in Our Town

Fictive Kinship & Welcoming College Campuses

By DeJuan Marcell Mitchell

It was not until I got to college that I discovered a little bit more about DeJuan Marcell Mitchell. 

Looking back on it, I am awed by how I was able to surmount all obstacles to become not only a high school graduate but a college graduate as well. Growing up on welfare and food stamps was a struggle. In addition to that, my asthma was horrible, my mother was on drugs, and my father was nowhere to be found. I struggled with my identity and my sexuality. Being both Christian and attracted to the same sex was a great challenge, and it made me scared, anxious, and anti-social to an extent.
But college has provided a safe and welcoming environment for me to become the person I am. I am currently in a master’s program at Murray State University in Kentucky and have realized that having support has been an essential part of my personal and academic success.
Texas Christian University: Acceptance & Support
My freshman year at Texas Christian University, I vowed to be open, honest, and friendly to others. It was very important for me to be myself, and I found TCU to be very welcoming. Even though there were few African-American students, I did not feel out of place. I met a group of young men at the Eta Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity whom I was able to look up to as mentors and older brothers. They showed me that I could be successful at a university where I was the minority. These young men were very active and present on campus and many students of all races and creeds knew them.
Not only did I find solace in these young men, but my admissions counselor was also very caring and helpful. When I arrived in Fort Worth, Texas in August 2008, she picked me up from the Greyhound station and drove me to campus. We then went to the admissions office where other counselors had taken up a collection for me due to my lack of funds. It was an amazing experience. Unfortunately, I still had to transfer to a state school the following year, but was grateful for the people who welcomed me in Texas.
Indiana State University: Leadership
I transferred back to my home state of Indiana to Indiana State University. ISU was a very different university compared to private TCU. However, I sought out similar successful males and found the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB). This group of young men worked to increase the academic success of black males at ISU, and change some of their preconceptions about higher learning. Students, as well as the VP of Student Affairs and the University President, backed this organization.
Realizing that my fellow students and the college administration wanted black males to be successful encouraged me to then run for an executive board position. I was elected to be Vice President, and eventually I would become President. We made changes within the organization as well as the ISU community, including addressing the perceptions that other students, faculty, and staff had about us. My senior year we started the Brotherhood of Successful Scholars (BOSS), which is currently doing a marvelous job.
My work with caring faculty, staff, advisors, and mentors led me to want to continue working with students. I was astounded by these professionals who did not have to care, but went out of their way to show that they did. Both of my organizations operated out of the African American Cultural Center. It was a place for us to print, have fellowship, meet, and hold events. The cultural center was a place where African-American students could feel safe and not judged. There are faculty and staff who work there advising organizations and who are willing to advocate for student issues.
Murray State University: Success
I’m happy to say that at Murray State, I have mentors that see potential in me that I didn’t see before. They push me and allow me to grow. This mimics some of my best experiences at Indiana State.
I think the best way universities can assist students of color is providing them with individuals that look like them, so they can feel some semblance of familiarity. There is a term called fictive kinship, referring to individuals that are unrelated by either birth or marriage, but who have an emotionally significant relationship. This relationship takes on the characteristics of a family relationship and it is very effective in helping students stay and persist.
I am surrounded by individuals who truly care about students and want them to succeed. For me, this has been a very powerful motivator for success.
DeJuan Mitchell is a minority graduate fellow in Murray State University’s Human Development & Leadership Program. 


Wow!  You are amazing!  Your life will inspire change & development in many that you reach.  Keep sharing your voice of success & excellence.  Change is enacted & inspired when you we all see that we too can overcome many struggles.  Strive for the best because that is what you deserve.  Remember, "He sees the BEST in you!"

Add new comment