This First-Generation College Graduate Says a Durham United Way Nonprofit Partner Let Her Dream Without Limits
Niadiquay Everette, a Durham-native, always wanted something more for herself.
Growing up in her family, money was always tight and they were forced to move around a lot when her mom or grandmother couldn’t afford to pay the bills. Niadiquay saw the effects of poverty first-hand and she knew she wanted more for her future from an early age.
“You know when you don’t have things other kids have. You know when you’re lacking,” she shared in a recent video interview. “I feared becoming just a product of my environment. I wanted a future that was different than the one I lived in. I wanted to live in a better neighborhood. I wanted to go to college.”
In fifth grade, Niadiquay’s science teacher introduced her to Student U, a United Way-funded partner committed not just to providing first-generation college students with access to the community and educational opportunities to be successful but also to empowering them, their families, and their educators to become the leaders that’ll transform Durham for the better.
Niadiquay joined the program in seventh grade and dove right in. That experience changed her entire future.
“She was prone to participate and raise her hand. She always had a level of learning, [she was] very curious, [and] able to bring her peers together and to model for them the way they should be in any space,” explained Alexandra Emmanuelle-Zagbayou, Student U’s Executive Director. “We live in a broken system where, because of racial and other structural injustices, we create conditions that require organizations like Student U to come in and be the bridge.”
Niadiquay credits her experience with Student U with helping her defy the odds. After graduating high school, she went on to attend UNC-Chapel Hill with a full scholarship. She now works in D.C. Public Schools as a six-grade language arts teacher as part of a dual teaching residency and master’s program at Johns Hopkins University.
“My ultimate goal is to make sure that my students feel heard, that students of color and students who are first-gen feel heard, and they know that they’re important and that someone is investing in them and helping them build the skills they need to succeed.”
Student U recently shared a video with Niadiquay’s full story on their YouTube channel. To see how the organization allowed her to “dream without limits,” click here.