Terell Wilson Memorial Scholarship
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I first crossed paths with Terell Wilson when he emailed me in December 2012:
Study Abroad Advice
“Hello Mrs. Davis, My name is Terell Wilson (applied communication major). I'm really interested in studying abroad in Florence. Is it possible for me to schedule an appointment with you…”
A year and a half later, Terell would write a much different email:
I left my heart in Florence.
“Hello Deborah! How are you? … When we first met December of 2012, I was skeptical of me actually going to Italy. You assured me it could easily be a reality. Those 16 weeks abroad have literally changed me (for the better).”
Terell was right to be skeptical. At Kent State, the typical study abroad student is a 21-year-old Caucasian female attending the main campus. Terell was the opposite – an older African-American male from the Stark Campus. Of the approximately 100 students I had so far taken to Florence, not one matched his description. Across the United States, the statistics are the same: female (65.3 percent) and white (76.3 percent). Although nearly 15 percent of students enrolled in higher education are African-American, only about 5 percent of study abroad students are.
But Terell made it to Florence (and left his heart there). He had assistance: the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship from the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the CCI Dean’s scholarship, and a lot of support from his family. He spent the Spring 2014 semester in Florence, and as he wrote to then-CCI Dean Stan Wearden a month after arriving, life would never be the same:
“At times I am at a loss for words, and it all feels surreal until I bump my head on the door frame entering my bedroom. This semester will and has already changed my outlook on life. From the people to the food and different pace of life, it's just awesome. All of the staff are caring and so helpful. My professors are very interesting, intelligent, provoking us to think differently.
“When you, Deborah, and Sara left, I felt a bit nervous, but I regained my confidence soon. The roller coaster of emotions we were warned about was very true. I am currently swinging out of the homesick phase. I try to encourage some of the others to have patience and stay focused. I guess this is all practice for me.”
Practice because Terell intended to become a counselor for at-risk youth in America’s inner cities. This was his plan prior to study abroad, but his time in Florence brought it more into focus. Midway through his stay, he posed this question on a CNN iReport:
“What can we do to encourage more inner-city youth to participate in study abroad programs?”
He went on to talk about his experience and his plan:
“I decided to study abroad in hopes of learning more about the world, different cultures and myself. Being in a foreign country is a challenge that builds and enhances one's character. Learning a new language and the customs of your new home is very beneficial to your growth. The ability to meet and make new friends from all over the world is priceless. This semester has been the best time of my life. The lessons are not limited to the classroom. Last week I had the task of presenting American holidays and cuisine to Italian middle school students. This was my best experience yet.
“I feel troubled that only one percent of American students participated in a study abroad program last year. I would love to contribute to raising the number of future students abroad. I must stress to the next or current generation that studying abroad has the ability to positively change one's life. I feel that I can reach a large number of young adults that are living in the inner city and inform them of my semester abroad. I believe that since I was raised in the same environment as they are and have made the appropriate changes to better my situation that I can be a sign of hope that the location in which they reside should not deter them from being successful. Studying abroad is a great investment.”
Five months after he returned from Florence, and while still a student at Kent State, Terell Wilson died suddenly Oct. 3, 2014, from an undiagnosed heart condition. He died before he could dive into the mission he set for himself, but not before having an enormous impact on all those who knew him. He was described as a gentle giant with a passion for his family and a love of learning. He had a sweet smile and an infectious laugh, and he was filled with generosity of spirit, kindness, and gratitude.
We created the Terell Wilson Memorial Scholarship to give Terell’s mission the time he did not have, and it is designated for the students he hoped to reach. It is a permanently endowed scholarship with the first recipient to be awarded Spring 2016, so we can be confident that Terell’s legacy will endure.
Please consider supporting Terell’s mission. The larger the endowment, the larger the scholarship, and for this population, the financial roadblock to study abroad can be almost insurmountable, but the impact of such an experience can be amazing. Your donation will change lives. If you plan to support the Faculty & Staff Campaign, you can earmark your contribution for this scholarship online.
If you would like to see Terell in action, here is a video made by his CCI Florence roommate, Andres Kishimoto.
Deborah and Stan Wearden