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Returning to New Beginnings

My freshman year experience at Bates was truly a unique one. It went by both incredibly slowly, and too quickly to recall. Much of my first-year experience at Bates consisted of learning and assimilating to the culture that my new educational environment was based around. Being a student of color at a predominantly white institution made the transition to Bates even more difficult, due to the fact that not only did I have to adapt to the speed and hefty class load of a liberal arts school, but I was also tasked with having to learn a new culture and way of life in Lewiston, Maine.

Moving on, it was not all hardship during my first-year experience at Bates. I was astounded with the variety of classes that allowed me to study something that I am truly passionate about as an individual. Taking classes such as Western Political Theory, Intro to African American Studies, and Coming of Age While Black have not only allowed me to explore the history of African Diaspora in America, but also build the skill set I need to analyze documentation and articles through multiple perspectives.

After just one semester of intense study, it became clear to me that the African American experience is them not having control of their own narrative. Not only that, but the way in which African Americans have been oppressed through means of political authority, or the implementation of social institutions has widened the wealth gap between whites and Blacks in general, making it even more difficult for blacks to make a sustainable living in western society.

Receiving all of this knowledge and hard truth about the history of African Americans showed me that slavery did not universally end once African Americans gained their freedoms under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Once African Americans were freed of the physical chains that bound them, new chains were placed within their minds.

Through public policy and the law, African Americans endure just as much hardship traversing through American society while also seeking to keep peace with an oppressive culture of western influence. Ever since the implementation of mass incarceration and the war on drugs, there has been an uptick on men of color that are incarcerated for 20+ years of their lives for minor drug offences, which inherently was the resultant of an agenda passed by a governing authority that does not seek to empower the minority groups of this country.

Being at the tender age of 18 during this time, it was a lot to take in, and it weighed on me for several months. Not only had my reality of how this world operates change, but it had also conflicted with the patriotic feeling I had for this country. I had always been aware of the circumstances in history that were present in society, but I never let that dictate how I treat people that come into my life. Now, this feeling of vulnerability made it even more difficult for me to gauge if I was even in the correct environment for my learning experience.

I would say from my experience as a first year at Bates, it is very important to manage your mental health properly. Whether you know what you want to major in right away or not at all, your perspective is liable to change, and your interests may draw you elsewhere.

It is also important not to focus all of your energy on academics at Bates. Joining clubs and becoming an avid member of the community beyond Bates not only benefits you socially, but it also benefits you mentally and spiritually. Becoming more active in the Bates community has been a central aspect of how I want to continue to better myself as a person at this institution. My predominant goal this year is to bring more attention to Black student athletes at Bates that may have experienced hardships transitioning from their previous state of residence to a school in Maine.

I have a dream to create an interwoven partnership between my high school and Bates, which would create opportunities to make exposure to college recruiting, networking with Bates representatives and administration, and gaining exposure to the application process. Creating a program like this would serve as an institutional pipeline that would help student athletes coming from inner city public schools to gain more information about as well as gaining more access to higher ed institutions such as Bates. I’m excited to continue my hard work in the classroom, on the court and in the community during my second academic year at Bates.

Cole Phaire
Contributing Writer

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