Dedicated to my maw J.K. Hill, my mawmaw, my mentors Dr. Hightower and Dr. Ray Bignall, and my advisor Dr. Adrienne Woods. Thank you for believing in me. Your empowering words live inside me. – K.J.
July 31, 2012 was one of the happiest days of my life. After a seven-year leave from my collegiate studies I was readmitted to Xavier University of Louisiana. When the dean called me to tell me I was ‘in’, I was overwhelmed with emotion. The review board had given me a second chance to reach my goals.
While I was excited to hear from the dean, this joy would soon dissipate.
The news reported that Hurricane Isaac had flooded New Orleans, and the same day it hit, my mother found out she would be homeless. Although she was wrongfully evicted, the things she had worked to acquire were now sprawled out on the lawn in front of her former home. I could see the hurt in her eyes as she helplessly watched strangers walk away with her possessions. You couldn’t imagine how badly that hurt me.
I was preparing to register for classes, but I also needed to stay by my mother’s side—like she had done for me since I started the re-admission process. I had to make a tough call to the dean to explain what was happening and it required rehashing the hurt of my mother’s dilemma. The dean was supportive. She suggested that I seek counseling to cope with the difficult nature of the events. She assured me that I could still return for the spring semester. I heeded her advice. Her compassion is part of the reason why I have an unwavering love for Xavier.
Since classes began, I have experienced homelessness as well as inadequate nutrition and rest—all while maintaining a full-time schedule and re-branding a start up healthcare company. I founded FitnessFleet, Inc., in 2010 during my own weight loss journey. I spent my time away from undergrad developing wellness curricula, recording health assessments, and volunteering with several national health organization who serve underserved and underrepresented people.
When I enrolled in spring classes, I found myself living in their shoes. While my HBCU story has been tumultuous, these experiences have caused me to tap into my inner-strength. It has taught me humility, determination, resilience, and the importance of developing a support system before you need it.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in the power of good people, people like the counseling staff, personnel of the Student Academic Success Office and my dean at Xavier—people who were there for me when I felt like hope was lost.
Xavier is exactly what I thought she would be. It’s a place that I’m proud to call home. I carry my acceptance letter with me everywhere I go. It’s a constant reminder of my self-determination and resilience as well as evidence of Xavier’s belief in me.
An aspiring physician and psychologist, Kaleb “Coach KJ” Hill is an undergraduate at Xavier University of Louisiana. He is also the CEO and founder of FitnessFleet, Inc., a health and wellness company. For more information, visit FitnessFleet on Twitter. Follow Kaleb on Twitter at @CoachKJMD2Be.