DDP-MSI Aligns Student's Passion with Purpose
The way Antoine Hawkins sees things, he's been on a path to change for himself, his family, his legacy, and the community around him for most of his life. An instinctive mentor, the Dual Degree Program-Male Success Initiative student—a key program at Governors State University that opens up a community college to university pathway for men of color—says that he "didn't find social work, it found [him]," and it was through the DDP-MSI that he was able to unite his natural strengths with a degree program and career.
The program's goals are clear:
- To increase the number of men of color who enroll in the DDP at one of our partner community colleges, earn their associate degrees, transfer to Governors State University (or any other accredited, not-for-profit university that best meets their academic needs), and graduate with their baccalaureate degrees.
- To become a model for the community college-to-university pathway for men of color.
This is done through one-on-one mentoring and guidance, as well as community-building between peers.
"I was able to actually come here to GSU and participate in workshops and community outreach before I graduated from community college," Hawkins said. "It's kind of funny because when I speak to other people who were in the program ahead of me and we get to talking, I find out they thought I was a student here earlier because I was able to be here so often. They actually thought that I was already a student here at GSU."
Hawkins also said the MSI-DDP allowed him to familiarize himself with campus so "it wasn't that shocking aspect of being a fish out of water in a new environment" when he transferred to GSU.
"When I came here, I became a peer mentor with the DDP program," Hawkins said. "I didn't know a lot about social work at that time. I was a junior with an associate's from Prairie State, and I remember going into my academic advisor's office and being asked what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to help people. She asked what I meant by that, and I told her I liked talking to people and helping them with their problems. I've always volunteered through churches and things of that nature, and I did it at work all the time, too."
Work at that point was—in Hawkins' words—"a dead-end job in a warehouse."
"I loved the people, but I hated the job," he said. "I had the pleasure of quitting—I enjoy saying that—had the pleasure of quitting my job and actually have a part time job with Gear Up now, which is based in Chicago through CPS. It's a mentoring program where we actually help students prepare for college."
Hawkins says he is "all in" when it comes to mentoring the teens because he "can relate to a lot of things that they're going through or have experienced."
"College wasn't a priority in my house. I'm a first-generation college student. My mom has a high school diploma, but no one before me in my family has gone beyond that. So I'm the first one. Unfortunately in our communities, in our families, education isn't always a priority."
Hawkins said that growing up in his household, there were two priorities: finish high school and don't have any kids until you do so.
"That's what my mother put into our heads since we were little. As we got older, it kind of shifted to: finish high school, don't go to jail, don't get caught up in the wrong crowd, but it was always a focus on high school and avoiding teen pregnancy. So it was kind of like, if you did those two things...you really did something."
Hawkins accomplished both, but he wanted more. At age 35, a married father of two teens, education was the way out, and he was willing to do the hard work to achieve it.
"[When I started college] I was working the night shift. I would get off work at 7 a.m., get a quick hour or two of sleep, go to class, and be in class until about 3 p.m.," Hawkins said. "It was tough, but I was determined—I wanted to do it, I had to do it. I ended up getting the GSU Promise Scholarship through the DDP which paid for my next two years here, so I earned a full-ride scholarship to Governors State. I was able to transfer here, come in as a junior after I graduated with my associate's degree, and continue my education."
Hawkins graduates in May 2018 and said that he plans to go on to graduate school at GSU.
"I'm passionate about what I do here, as far as mentoring, and I feel like I'm serving a purpose. That's what gets me going," he said. "After I get my Master's, I'd like to stay in the area and continue my work here, but I'll go wherever the need takes me."