OSWEGO, N.Y — SUNY Oswego is a predominantly white institution, which has made some students of color feel unheard and invisible, but there are people on this campus that want to change that.
The mental health of students is something that is heavily talked about more specifically, students of color mental health. Having to walk around on a campus with people who don’t look like you can be very detrimental to your mental health.
Ari Robinson, a junior at SUNY Oswego, who is currently the president of Bold Black Beauties, an organization on campus that reaches out to Black women to help encourage and empower them during their journeys on campus has firsthand experience on this issue. She said her time at SUNY Oswego has been an interesting experience.
“When I first got here I looked around and said where are all the Black people!?!” she said.
As soon as she felt this, she made it her mission to find people who look like her. It took her a while to do so as she is a shy person and didn’t feel comfortable reaching out. She knew in order to find such people she would have to be brave and she did just that.
SUNY Oswego demographics as of 2022 is that the majority of the campus population are white.
“When coming into a school where you see a majority of students don’t look like you it can be really difficult to feel like you fit in,” said Robinson.
As president of BBB, she has made it her mission to reach out to the freshmen that just recently entered the college to let them know BBB is here to help. Bold Black Beauties has programs every Friday at 5 p.m. The programs are about all types of things revolving black women. Just recently, the organization held a program called “Shades of Brown” where they discussed colorism in the Black community.
Samiyah Lee, a sophomore, says she felt so happy to be at that program as she felt comfortable enough to openly say her opinion.
“As a Black girl, to have a room full of other Black girls discussing such a pressing topic really touched my heart and I thank BBB for creating such a space,” said Lee.
Lee said her mental health was deteriorating as she wasn’t able to connect with other students here on campus.
“I felt it was because of the color of my skin I would try to connect and the other people wouldn’t be receptive at all and it really made me think there was something wrong with me,” she said.
Now not just student leaders have been helpful on this campus. Marquel Jeffries, the current assistant coordinator in the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been trying his hardest to do so.
“As a student of color, my initial reaction to coming to SUNY Oswego wasn’t as big as a shock to me,” Jeffries said.
He went to a predominantly white high school which helped him get used to this dynamic. While going to his high school, it helped him see that he was different.
“What do I do with that difference? How can I use that to my advantage?” he said. He felt that he and other students of color stood out quite a bit while going to Oswego.
Since he felt he stood out he wanted to make sure it was for something good. As a freshman at SUNY Oswego, he was required to go to the Involvement Fair which was a fair where all the clubs and organizations gathered to help get people to join them. He said that the Black Student Union table was the only table to stand out to him. People embraced him and ushered him to join which he did just that. Since that moment, he was excited to go to class and see familiar faces on campus as it really lifted his spirits.
Jefferies held a few positions in the Black Student Union during his time here as a student. He was first a committee member, director of marketing, and then finally vice president.
“I felt that I had finally found my community,” he said.
Jefferies wanted to continue to make a difference here at SUNY Oswego even after he graduated, which got him into the Office of Diversity. He worked closely with the former chief in that office which then landed him a full-time job in the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
He wanted to be a part of the process of helping get rid of flaws that the office had. Such as racial dynamics that were prominent to him as a student . With his position, he is currently the faculty advisor for AAMEN, which is the African American Males Empowering Network organization here on campus. He wishes to help connect with others and compare journeys.
Jefferies said his mental health reached such a low level at one point, but having the services here on campus as well as these organizations helped him immensely. The mental health services here on campus include but are not limited to individual counseling, group counseling, couple counseling, and workshops.