As they approached their junior year at FVSU, liberal studies major Darian-Ivey and psychology major Desiri-Ilana Simpkins found themselves displaced for a second time. Financial troubles were very real. But they wouldn’t give up. Their late great-grandmother had instilled in them values of hard work and persistence that will last a lifetime. Now, as they approach their graduation from FVSU on Saturday, they believe that persistence has paid off.
They began their college education at another school, but transferred when they felt underappreciated, disrespected, and undervalued. There, they felt like they were just a number. “They never expected black people, especially black females, to know what they were talking about,” said Darian.
Their experience was completely different at FVSU, where they found mentors in professors that both challenged and nurtured them. Darian-Ivey, for example, counts English professor Dr. Berlethia Pitts, Juone Brown, her public speaking instructor, and Dr. Meigan Fields, who taught her during a Women in Politics course, as major supporters. “All three of these amazing women pushed me, encouraged me, and allowed me to express myself in ways I would have never imagined,” she said.
Both have achieved academic honors while at FVSU, which the twins feel is like a home away from home. Whereas professors at their former school refused to see students outside of office hours, their FVSU professors are genuinely happy to meet with them and help them reach their goals.
“To me, all of the professors in my department were approachable,” said Desiri-Ilana. “You get that family feel that you wouldn’t normally get.”
“Hindsight is 20/20,” added Darian-Ivey, “We should have started here.”
(Desiri-Ilana Simpkins (left) and Darian-Ivey Simpkins)
The twins are evangelists about HBCUs, and not just because the majority of students are African American. “I’m pro-HBCU, not only because of the color of my skin, but because HBCUs, in my experience, have been pro-student, regardless of the color,” said Desiri-Ilana.
After graduation, Darian-Ivey plans to attend graduate school to continue studies in English, and will one day become an African-American literature professor. “I believe it is important to read and study works from people of color because it has been so underrated and overlooked in our society, and young black minds need to be familiar with works from people who look like them,” she said. “After all, representation matters.”
Desiri-Ilana also plans to attend graduate school to obtain her master’s degree in clinical psychology. She wants to earn a doctorate in child psychology and forensic psychology.
The two agree that diligence and self-application are the keys to academic success. Darian-Ivey has some pointed words of wisdom to younger students.
“I would tell them to be consistent,” said Darian-Ivey. “If they have a goal, they should make sure they are taking the necessary steps to achieve that goal. Also, I would encourage them to make sure they surround themselves with people who want to see them successful.”