Darius Spurlock, Former Louisiana GEAR UP Student

Darius Spurlock, who will graduate from Louisiana State University in December 2019 with his Bachelor of Arts in English, knows he’d like to have a career in education.

He’s tutored students, mentored, and worked with college access programs. 

Over the summer, he explored working at the post-secondary level through an internship at Virginia Tech.  

“What I’m helping students learn and accomplish is not just beneficial for that one day, it’s something they can use throughout their lifetime. That’s the most rewarding part of working in education.”

Darius Spurlock, Former Louisiana GEAR UP Student

What were your responsibilities/what did you do?

I had the opportunity to be the first Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) intern at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, VA. 

I worked on three projects along with a special development trip during my last week. 

The first project required me to work with an internal group to help create recommendations that will grow into policies and procedures for interacting with alumni, students, and employees from diverse backgrounds.  

The second project required me to work with an external group to plan a diversity professional forum for those who engage in diverse populations. There were four institutions that worked together on this project: 1) Carnegie Mellon University, 2) North Carolina at Chapel Hill University, 3) Virginia Commonwealth University, and 4) Virginia Tech University. With this, I was responsible for drafting and preparing a grant proposal to help fund the forum. 

My final project was to create a proposal that focused on increasing the engagement of a minority population at Virginia Tech. I chose to focus on the Latinx (Latin American) group, primarily due to the lack of support that this group currently has in the U.S. 

At the conclusion of my internship, I had the opportunity to take a development trip with Virginia Tech’s Chief Diversity Officer to the Hampton Roads area.  We visited a few of the first few African American students to attend the university. We were able to hear about their past and present experiences while at Virginia Tech, and also hear what their hopes are for the generations to come. 

How do you see this opportunity playing a part in your future successes?

I have a genuine passion for helping people with their academic, career, and personal development. I believe this internship helped me to see how my passions can be transferred beyond working within the K12 setting. The projects that I had the opportunity to work on this summer will have an impact on more people than I will know. This impact will also spread across all groups, ages, socioeconomic statuses, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. This opportunity helped me to better realize that I need to always pay attention to how decisions impact others and how to adequately advocate for them. As I continue to grow professionally, I can see this opportunity helping me to think inclusive in all of my work, which in turn will produce greater results. 

What valuable lessons/takeaways did you learn (about the field and about yourself)?

During the internship, I had to journal my experience and prepare a draft grant proposal, which are two tasks I have never done. Journaling my experience was rewarding for me because it allowed me to see how I evolved over the summer and it also allowed me to measure my growth professionally and personally. 

Prepping the grant proposal was also very challenging, yet rewarding, in the sense of learning the process. 

I was also able to build my professional network through meetings with the senior leadership team in University Advancement, CASE interns, staff from the conference, and a few outside events. At the beginning of the summer, I started a LinkedIn profile and now my profile is filled primarily with professionals that I have had the opportunity to meet during this internship.

“GEAR UP provided me with the experience I needed to help form my college experience. Without the Explorers’ Club, Louisiana GEAR UP programming, and staff, I would not have had the opportunity to navigate college to the point where I am today as a college senior and Aspire to Inspire (A2I) mentor. I attempt to serve as a bridge, a resource, and a confidante for students and their families as they begin to navigate the college process. Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) gave me the opportunity to give back to families across the state, sharpen my skills, and participate in this purposeful work.”

Darius Spurlock – Former GEAR UP Student