How One College Student is Breaking the Racial and Gender Barrier
High school seniors across the country are currently making an important decision on what college they will attend in the fall. Jazmine is a junior at Virginia Tech she is majoring in Criminology and minoring in Leadership. She is a part of the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech which is a military school inside of the University. Jazmine has a passion for social justice, music, art and activism. She also happens to be my sister! Read on to hear Jazmine speak about overcoming adversity as a black woman in a male dominated career and attending a predominately white institution.
Name: Jazmine Lewis
State: New Jersey
College: Virginia Tech
Why did you decided to join the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets?
I was looking at schools with Army ROTC. My mom and I found Virginia Tech and heard it was one of the Best ROTC/Leadership programs in the country. To get into the AROTC I have to be in the Corps of Cadets.
What advice would you give to women who want to join the military or attend a military type of school?
I would tell them that it’s something that is achievable. I won’t lie, it's very hard. My time here has been stressful and a big challenge, but all the sacrifice is worth it. You can make it in the military, but you have to really want it.
Jazmine at her training
What obstacles did you have overcome in your life so far?
A big challenge in my Army ROTC career was keeping my weight at Army’s standard. I lost my scholarship for a semester because I failed to pass my tape/weigh ins. Although, I pass my PT test, I still fight with keeping my body to the standard. I constantly have to be aware of what i’m eating and i workout with friends 5 times a week. Working out with other women in my program who have the same challenges as me has motivated me and helped me maintain healthy and fit lifestyle.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that she’s strong, beautiful, and worth it. I’ve lost confidence and had self doubt over the years, because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I thought I didn’t deserve to be here because I didn’t come from the same place as everyone else, and I’m not the smartest. I would tell her to keep her head up. She deserves success because she’ll stop at nothing to get it. So keep going Jazmine because there’s light at the end of your tunnel.
Jazmine at Virginia Tech football game
What advice would you give to high school students who are in the college process?
I would give them the same advice I gave my cousins and little sister. Pick the college that fits you. Parents are going to have their favorite school for you, or you might get into a well known school but my not have liked the campus. At the end of the day, you’ll be the only one going to that school and getting an education. So pick the school you fell in love with, the one you’ll be happy to wake up at for the next 4 years. You don’t want to go to a school you never liked, one that didn't make you happy because you’ll lose the motivation to work. So choose YOUR school, not THEIRS.
As an African American women in the military, have you gone through any discrimination and how have you handle it?
Yes, I have. I’ve gotten a lot of comments about my hair. One time I got out the shower and one of my upperclassmen asked (in front of the other girls) if I even showered because my hair wasn’t wet. My freshmen year roommate told our friends I was dirty because I didn't wash my hair everyday. It is sad but you have to educate. I am constantly explaining my culture and hair to white people, especially in the Corps so that when new cadets come they aren’t questioned like I was or assumed to be dirty. There is no need to curse them out or fight, education can go a long way for the next girl in my situation.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to my little sister. I’ve watched my sister Zaniya fight and work harder than anyone I know. She achieves things not by chance, but by effort. Things like academics do not come easy to her, but she is still able to maintain a great gpa. I feel that it’s only right for me to give the same amount of effort she gives everyday. We motivate each other because we know we can both reach new levels.
Jazmine and Zaniya
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I see myself in the Army National Guard and as an Agent in the FBI analyzing criminals.
As a woman of color that has natural hair, how do you manage your hair and make sure it stays healthy?
I came to college not knowing how to do my hair because I go to a predominantly white school there are not a lot of salons that can tame my mane. So, I decided to teach myself how to do my hair. I’ve used Youtube and asked family for advice. Plus, I tried different products to see what fits my hair texture. I did not start off good ,but after three years I can do a few good styles and make a great bun. I’ve also made friends with other black girls who can braid, so that has been beneficial.
What are your hobbies?
I like to play intramural sports with my friends. I’ve played kickball, softball, flag football, and this year my basketball team won the championships. I also like to make educational raps!
Was the transition to high school to a military school hard and how have you cope with the stress?
Because I come from a military family and I was in JROTC in high school I sort of knew what to expect. But college in general is different. I am out of state and came to Virginia Tech knowing no one at all. It became very stressful and lonely at times, but it also pushed me out of my comfort zone. I made efforts to get to know people. I made really close friends and I have a circle of people I can go to for advice or just to rant about my day. I also have my family. We may be a far distance from each other but we are just a phone call or text away. My family has been a large part of my motivation and have always supported me.
Jazmine graduating her first week of the Corps of Cadets
Zaniya is a freshman at the Catholic University of America. Zaniya has won two national contest within a year. In the summer of 2015, Zaniya was chosen 1 out of 3 student-athletes in the United States to travel with the NBPA and NBA on an amazing community service trip to South Africa. Recently, Zaniya was a co-winner of First Lady Michelle Obama and Seventeen Magazine Better Make Room National Contest. She interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama and appeared on the cover of the May issue of Seventeen Magazine. Zaniya served on the New Jersey National Guard Teen Panel for six years, where she helped to create programs, camps, and trips for military kids. Learn more about Zaniya on the Meet Our Blog Writers page.