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Dallas College Shines: Karrington Bennett

Karrington Bennett 
Fall 2020 Dallas College alum, current SMU student 
Political Science major 
How did you come to Dallas College, and how was the transition to SMU? 

As I was graduating from high school, I realized I wasn’t ready to attend a four-year university. My parents and I decided I should finish my basics at a two-year school and then transfer to a university so I could be more prepared for college.

In high school, I honestly wasn’t a good student because I was lazy. When I came to Dallas College, I started learning that I have a lot of abilities and skills if I put in the effort and work. At Cedar Valley Campus, I got involved and became a student ambassador and a member of the honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. I love being able to work with different organizations and connecting with students and staff. I developed the foundation of my leadership skills at Dallas College, which is why I am so thankful. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t have been successful or been able to attend Southern Methodist University (SMU).  
When I transferred to SMU in Spring 2021, it was a difficult process because of COVID-19. Other than that, I started acclimating well to the school. I’m heavily involved on campus. I have work-study jobs, and I’m in the First-Generation Association and am the transfer senator for the SMU Student Senate, which allows me to work with many transfer students and first-generation students. I’ve got a lot on my plate, but I enjoy it. A lot of my desire to be involved came from Dallas College.
What has been the most rewarding thing about being a first-generation student?  

Just the fact that I had the audacity to apply to SMU. I never thought I could attend a school like this one. All my peers went to other schools like HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities). I love HBCUs, but schools like SMU in my group were not a normal thing in my community where I come from. So, when I go back home and I see my friends, they tell me how proud they are of me for getting accepted and choosing a prestigious university.

Also, as a first-generation student and a woman of color, I’ve had to face some barriers, but I’ve been given a lot of resources and opportunities at the same time. A lot of students come here and find out it wasn’t what they thought it would be or it’s just a struggle for them. That is why I love sharing my experience because I can show other students like me that it’s possible. You don’t have to come from money or your parents don’t need to have degrees for you to be successful. 
What impact has your college journey made on your family? 

I have a little cousin. I believe him seeing me go to school and pursue a degree is making him take school seriously. For me, I didn’t take school seriously, because I didn’t have anybody [else] go to school. So, it makes him want to go to school and go to college. 
As a woman of color, how has the college experience been for you? 
SMU was a culture shock for me. The community I grew up in was predominantly Black and Hispanic. I didn’t want to say anything weird to offend anybody and I didn’t want to get offended. I felt like I was stepping on eggshells.

One of the blessings of SMU is that there are a lot of organizations for students to get involved in. Student life experiences are truly needed, especially at campuses like SMU because you can easily get intimated and afraid. That’s one of the challenges I faced. Just being scared and thinking I wouldn’t have a community here at SMU. When you are involved on campus, that is the opportunity for you to connect with students like you. Not only as an African American student but also as one who is underprivileged with financial challenges. It can be intimidating to be on a campus like SMU. But there are a lot of resources here to help you not feel alone. That’s why I’m so appreciative of the organizations I’m involved in because there are others like me who understand the challenges we’ve gone through. Most of the time, I’m the only Black girl or the only Black student in the class. That can be intimidating, but I’ve learned to navigate through that by getting advice from other students who are just like me. 
What has been the lowest moment you’ve had to face when it comes to diversity? How did you overcome it? 

One of the struggles I’ve had is dealing with my mental health. With having parents who didn’t go to school, they didn’t fully understand the challenges I was facing. But going to the offices of the staff members I trusted and was close with really helped because I was able to talk with them about the hardships I was facing. They would lift me up. They not only understood the academic part of my college journey but personally what I had going on outside of schoolwork and classes. It was really a saving grace for me. I definitely grew as a person at Dallas College.  
Do you see yourself as a role model for the Black/African American community? 

I definitely do. Considering the fact that there aren’t many Black students like me. I hear from my peers that they’re proud of me. Every time I visit my family, they tell me to keep going and finish my degree because there’s not a lot of us and I’m the first in my family. People are looking to me to finish. 
What would be a lesson or advice you would give to Black female students starting their college journey? 

Be yourself. Be confident in who you are. Whether it’s your name, where you come from, the way you talk or the way you wear your hair. Stay true to who you are because people will want to come to you when you’re being real and not someone else. If they don’t like you, don’t change for them. If you have to struggle with being by yourself for a season, do it. Never change who you are. 
What are your aspirations for the future? 

I want to become a lawyer. I want to practice civil rights law. In order to do that, I really wanted to learn all aspects of government, which is why I chose to major in political science. I want to help create solutions. It’s a very thought-provoking major, which I really enjoy because it helps me know why I believe in what I believe and better understand others. 

After I finish my degree at SMU, I plan to attend law school.  
What advice would you give to other students of color to motivate them to attend college and complete their degree? 

I am an advocate for higher education. Education gives you freedom, regardless of where you come from or the struggles you’ve faced. Obstacles actually help make someone a better student. While some people have had things handed to them their whole life, those who have struggled have gone through more experiences that better mold the person they have become.

College is the best place for growing and becoming the best version of yourself. I don’t believe in not going for something because of your circumstances. If I think about achieving something, I figure out all the ways to make it happen. Having confidence in yourself is where it all starts. You can’t let your circumstances define you and determine how successful you will be. 

Karrington Bennett at SMU
Published inStudent Success Story