University of Texas at AustinDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Gateway Alumnus Ja’Michael Darnell on Following Your Passion

1800486_10152040073994499_6537122208715684642_nLet’s be honest. Gateway has been the essence for most of my growth as a student on this campus. It all started with a speech during the Gateway Orientation at the beginning of my first year. At the orientation, Dr. Leonard Moore, sparked us with a pre-lecture to kick off the semester. My first impression of Dr. Moore is one I will never forget. My train of thought was like, “Why is this man so hyped? Wait, is this how college will be? A Black professor during my first semester at UT? This is cool.” I told you I would be honest. Dr. Moore’s lecture left an impact on me that helped me make most of my decisions throughout my college career.

He encouraged us to follow our passion. Immediately, I had an inner dialogue with myself. “Ja’Michael, are you really following your passion? Do you really want to be an Advertising major?” Not to knock advertising, but I had already been contemplating my decision of settling with becoming an advertising major, instead of going with my first choice of being a theatre major. I decided to pursue advertising because of my insecurity in believing that a theatre degree could provide me with substantial skills to impact society and have a successful career.

I did not want to regret that decision, so I took Dr. Moore’s advice and decided to follow my passion. My first year’s goal was to figure out what I needed to do to become a theatre major. I spent my freshman year taking classes, seeking out opportunities, and having conversations with upperclassmen and professors about theatre. By the end of my first year, I had taken two theatre classes and performed in two shows on campus. Once my second year rolled around, I had officially become a theatre major.

Now that I’ve graduated with my Bachelors of Arts in Theatre & Dance, I have no regrets about the decision I made. Throughout my four years here, I have gotten so many opportunities and met so many amazing people. From having an incredible summer studying abroad in Florence, Italy to traveling to New York City and Washington, D.C. to network with artists, the experiences I’ve had during my undergraduate career have helped me see clearly how possible it is to pursue my passion.

I guess the moral of the story is to follow your passion. Yes, follow your passion wholeheartedly! But, I’m writing to highlight how Gateway has impacted me. Because of Gateway, I have spent the past four years of my life following my passion, being a leader on campus, inspiring others by sharing my experiences about being a student, and gaining relationships with some of the nation’s most driven individuals that will be catalysts in their fields someday. Gateway made this huge campus seem like a small community to me.

With that being said, thank you Gateway Scholars Program! I appreciate all of the resources and opportunities you provided, and the amazing mentors and staff! I am grateful for everything you did for me and what you will continue to do for undergraduate students on this campus!

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