Life After Now
Liz Bolsoni 00:03
Hello and welcome back to the Life After Now podcast. I'm your host Liz Bolsoni, a communication studies major at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education, and think about what it means for your life after now. You'll be able to connect with inspirational guests who have firsthand experience and expertise surrounding education in Minnesota. So today I will be talking with Dan-neya Yancey, a program coordinator for Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth. Dan-neya is here to share her story with us and share what she thinks are some of the benefits of college based on her personal story. Dan-neya, thanks so much for joining me today.
Dan-neya Yancey 00:16
Thank you for having me.
Liz Bolsoni 00:34
So before we dive in today, I wanted to ask you a question that I ask all of my guests. If you have any words of affirmation or words of wisdom to your high school self, what would you say?
Dan-neya Yancey 01:05
Wow, that's a good question. I would say try to get outside of your head. A lot of times when I get inside of my head, I doubt myself, I doubt my capabilities, the ability to be a leader. And I would say stop trying to dim your light. I think it's nice to be humble, right, but it's also great to have a moment where you can celebrate your successes and your wins, because it took a lot to get there. And I would also say I have two siblings, whom I lost both of them in 2018. One in February and one in June of 20 -- the 25th. And the biggest thing I learned from both of them is how to be a really great friend, and how to be someone who values education, but also have fun. I think those are the biggest things I would tell myself, my younger self, because I was that person where I thought time was like not on my side, and I had to finish everything that I, you know, started, and I wanted everything to be perfect. And you just have to live life to the fullest and take things as they go. And I would say that would be that would be my words of wisdom for my younger self, my high school self. Thank you. And I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing those words of wisdom coming out of such a traumatic, you know, experience. So after attending high school in Minnesota -- Brooklyn Center, Minnesota -- you attended the University of Minnesota, and I'm wondering how was your experience in high school different than your experience in college? How are those environments different? Yeah, a few things I would say are different -- in my high school, the demographics were completely different. Right? So the University of Minnesota, there's about I would say 5% Black population; I'm a Black woman. So, being from high school that was very much representative of me in terms of the peers that I interacted with, that was a shock for me, right. The culture was different. I also came from a very collectivist background, right. Where you make decisions, and you try to do the things that are going to be in benefit of the entire family. And going to any education system or higher education, you soon realize that, you know, follow your heart's desires, follow your passion. And you realize like, "Okay, well, what about money? What about all these other things that is so important for my family, and to support my family." And I worked with younger people as well, that went through the same thing. And so it's very much a different culture, in terms of just like a collective background, in terms of demographics. And I would say, also, when it comes to high school, there's a big difference between support, right. So in high school, you kind of get your schedule, everything is kind of really laid out for you. And in college, I would say it's a bit different, right. You have to advocate for yourself, and you have to reach out to those connections that are meant to support you. And so that was also a big difference that I had to go through when I applied and got accepted into the U of M [University of Minnesota].
Liz Bolsoni 04:23
I would totally agree. And I think a lot of times, it's really hard transitioning into college because it's such a different environment. And you yourself aren't ready because you haven't changed with it. And so it takes a while, sometimes a semester, maybe the whole year, to make sure that you are fit for the environment or that the environment fits your needs. Otherwise, it's really hard to succeed in such a new place. So yeah, if we could go back a little bit to your college years, or before you applied, [to] some of the myths and some preconceived notions that you heard about college. Were some of them true, were they not true? How did that affect your experience?
Dan-neya Yancey 05:05
Yeah, some of the preconceived notions, I think, personally that I had going in to college freshman year was, I wouldn't have enough time to do anything. And that's a big myth, right. Because you make time where it's important, and you make time to do the things that are meaningful for you and will benefit you. And so I had to learn to kind of, again, get out of my head about that, and had to also learn that you have a plan, and you have a structure in place, right. So you, you talk to your adviser, whoever that may be. And you create a plan about what you want to do, what you're thinking about, what classes you want to get into, which is super important. But you also have to realize that plans change. And so are you able to adapt to that change? Are you able to be flexible and understand that it's normal for an individual who was a freshman, who just got into college, to change majors multiple, times to change minors multiple times? And so I think that's another thing is just understanding that you don't have to compare yourself to people, because everyone has their own own definition of success, their own pathway to success. And I think that's one of the biggest things and myths that, you know, I had in my mind is like, I won't have time to do this, I won't have, you know, I think, also coming in with idea that you have a plan, and you're just going to stick to it. It's not -- that's not the way it's going to be and it's okay. And that's natural. And that's normal. And those are the two biggest, I think, myths coming in that I had to reevaluate and recognize. Yeah, that's, that's great to hear. And like, I mean, going into college, there's no point in having everything figured out, because the whole point of being there is to learn. And of course, as you learn your plans, or what you think is best for you is definitely going to change. And so it's good that we're able to have that time, yeah, to reevaluate and think about what's best for our futures. So from what I've heard, I know that you were really involved on your campus as a student, and I'd like to hear a little bit more about the groups you engaged in and how you played a role on the campus that you attended. Yes, thank you for asking that question. So there are two actual groups that really played a significant part of my life. And one of them is called the President's Emerging Scholars, PES, or if you're a little bit sassy, like me, PE-Yes. Right? And I think that program specifically helped me to understand my sense of belonging, right, on campus. As I stated before, the University is a predominantly white institution. And it's not a bad thing, but it's a different thing, right. And it's something that you have to navigate. And it's not something that's going to change overnight. And so one of the things that I learned from them is that they work with students who come from low income backgrounds. They work with first generation students. They work with students who are indigenous and people who receive Pell Grants, right. So financial need is there. And they also provide professional advising, peer-to-peer mentoring, and offer you opportunities, really, to do high-impact activities. And what we call high-impact activities are volunteering, right. So you can get more involved, and you kind of have an excuse to start going out and start talking to other people or organizations that may align with what you want to do, or what you're interested in. And not to mention, it's already -- it's also a scholarship program. So you get your first year and your last year at the university receive $1,000 scholarship, if you finish all the requirements. And another thing is the Peers Support Group or Peers in general. And it's a financial literacy program. And I was kind of at the tail end of my kind of senior year, going from my junior to senior year. And it offered an opportunity for me to learn more about money, right, the 30-50-20 rule, and understanding how to save, how to you know, spend. And as a college student, I think there's moments where you start to realize that you have more independence than sometimes you are ready for, or you think you're ready for, and that group allowed me to really focus on finances. And also they work with students who are in middle school, high school students, and students of college age.
Liz Bolsoni 09:52
What is the 30-50-20 rule? Am I missing out?
Dan-neya Yancey 09:56
Yeah. And I think I said it wrong. So it's 50-30-20. So 50 is what you spend on your needs. The 30 is what you want to spend on your once. And then the 20 is what you save. So yeah, so I started -- I'm starting late, but it's okay. Right? You can start somewhere. Wherever you can start is where you should be starting, right? Like, wouldn't you want to save money. When you want to spend something on something that you like. But just balancing that, and knowing that there are responsibilities that come with adulthood. That you necessarily weren't, you know, always around when you were younger, because things were taken care of, depending on your background, right. And for me, that was a new thing that I had to learn, is financial literacy. And being able to just focus on that, and focus on that in a positive light and make it fun. Yeah, that's a really good piece of advice. Because it's really important, especially when you're possibly paying a lot of money or taking out loans to go to school, that it's an investment. But there needs to be a little bit of room to, you know, take care of yourself and help out others around you, and you know, get your nails done, go have a little shopping spree. That's good, too, for that 20 percent. So, looking at those student groups, and how it affected you personally, do you think that it prepared you for your career or your professional life? And tell us a little bit more about, you know, as you're a program coordinator, and you're working with students now, what do you think that -- or how do you think that has impacted what you teach and what you value? Yes, so significantly, like it played a huge part in how I am now, and the skills that I developed really. So when it comes to President's Emerging Scholars, or Peers, or any other programming that I had the privilege to really be a part of, I learned mostly in my mentoring, right, with young people, or people who were coming in as freshmen and sophomores, to talk to them, and learn how to listen, actively listen to people and understand their concerns and their fears, and understand also that they're rooted in different things. People can be afraid for multiple different reasons. And coming into college is no different, right. And I also think, for me, I had to learn how to, you know, [learn] patience, and how to understand that people are not always going to be on the same page, and that goes for mentorship, right. You talk to people, you have a conversation with them, about the things that they're going through, about their school life. But they also talk about home life. They also talk about the roles outside of academics. And I think that's super important is that just because you added on another title as a student, right, as a student in higher education, doesn't mean or negate the fact that you are an aunt, that you're a brother, that you or a family member. And so I think that's one of the things that I learned is understanding that people are coming into different spaces. I helped convene the leadership team for Health on the Go. And so I have to learn how to be patient, how to actively listen, how do I talk to people in understanding their concerns, and also be diplomatic. But also understand that it's okay to turn up the heat a little bit, you know, it's okay to move things along, but also have a little compassion as we do that in any space that you're in. Yeah, there's so much more than just a diploma that you can get at college if you're able to be engaged in campus, you can just gain so many more skills. And that's a really cool part of being at college. So let's go back to high school a little bit, jumping around in your life. When you were looking to attend college, or if you were, what values influenced that decision? What were you -- what did you think was most important at that time in your life? And how did it impact your decision to attend college? Yeah, I would say for me, I would say the values that ultimately led me to the University of Minnesota is the fact that I value spending time with my family. And I did apply to some colleges out of state, so like Tuskegee University, or just other colleges that I was interested in. And that was a value that really showed up a lot, right, in the application process. I was like, "Can I really move down there or can I really move somewhere else that is super far away from my mom, my you know, my family in general." And that was the biggest value that kept coming up. And I would also say advancement for me is super important in security. And so understanding higher education has a benefit, an ultimate benefit of making sure that you have an earning potential that is far greater than someone who may have just a high school diploma. Now, that's a really great feat. But what else can you do after that? Right? And that's something that I always sat with. And I said, "Okay, what do I want to do? I know, I want to go to college, what college?" And asking myself like, "What do I want in life? You know, and what are the values that align with that? And then how am I going to get there? What is the game plan?" So I would say those are the biggest values is making sure I understood family is important to me, understanding that advancement is important to me, so moving up, and also security. And knowing that ultimately, college was -- that was the biggest benefit, you make at least $30,000 plus, just alone having a bachelor's degree. So that that's a super important, more than a high school, just a high school diploma. I would agree that, you know, I kind of was wishing I had applied [to] places farther away for college, or that I were traveling somewhere, I don't know, by the water, you know, warm and sunny for college, because winter sucks, right? But I'm really glad I stay here. Just the past year it's been really important for me to be with my community, and be in Minneapolis. So I'm glad that I stayed. And I think, you know, that's a different decision for everyone. But for me, it worked out. So you're currently working and supporting people with their health and well being. So as a student, how do you feel, or do you feel that you were supported in your health and well being with your post secondary programs and activities, and what ways can students find places where they where they feel accepted and connected to people that make them happier and healthier? Yes, so for me, I learned a lot about college life, through President's Emerging Scholars, right. So I had the opportunity to talk with a mentor, to talk about student counseling and where they were located. And sometimes even they would take students directly there so that you knew you had a person to go with, right. And someone who knew what they were talking about, as well, and someone who supported you. And I would say this too: mental health and well being is so important. And I want people to know that everyone has mental health. And that should be taken into consideration. Now whether you need different supports depending on how your mental health is, that's where we get into these nuances and these little things that are super important to kind of decipher between what supports that you need. And so while someone might be going to a student support group, another person might just want a one-on-one counseling, or might want to go to, I don't even know what it's called anymore, but it's -- they had pets on campus, like plenty at the library. It was amazing. I mean, just moments of just pure bliss, and a moment where you can just forget about everything and focus on something that is calming you down. That is important. And the student groups and activities, one of the ways that you can cope with student life, because it can be hectic. And like I said, you don't just go into school or get accepted into a university and every other title that you are as a sister, friend, whoever you are, gets left on the wayside. It doesn't. Your life is still going. And it's important to balance those moments of, you know, stress with fun things that you want to do. And so when I talk about student groups, those are one of the ways and for me President's Emerging Scholars being around -- in the Appleby Hall is where they are located -- students would just go in there and sit down, you know, sometimes you just need a comfortable couch. You don't want to sit in the chairs, you know, you just want to a moment to just lay down, and I would say students --
Liz Bolsoni 19:29
Those dang dorm --
Dan-neya Yancey 19:30
Liz Bolsoni 19:30
Those dorm mattresses. Not good. Sorry to interrupt.
Dan-neya Yancey 19:35
No, that is perfectly fine. And you know, that's another thing about me is I didn't live on campus. I lived outside of campus because I knew community living was not for me. And so once you understand that, I would say try it if you want to, right. But for me, I lived off campus so it was even more imperative for me to find places where I felt like I belonged. Places where I could trust to people and ask them questions and just be there and be present with other people. Because it can get into a routine, you can get a routine: get to school, you leave. And you don't enjoy the time that you have there, and you're just all about school. So that was a big thing that I had to kind of learn how to do. But those who are looking for activities, I say, try everything, like try anything and everything that sounds interesting to you. And if you do not see a group that is for you, there are opportunities for you to start a group. Don't doubt your abilities to be a leader and start something and find a few friends. That's also a big thing, right. So just enjoying those events and going to those events, and putting yourself out there is super important. And you make connections that way.
Liz Bolsoni 20:49
So as we wrap up here, and thank you for your great response. I'm wondering, you know, looking at what you're talking about, keeping your value central to who you are. Considering everything that students have gone through in the past year, what do you hope life after now looks like for students in Minnesota, and maybe specifically in your home, Brooklyn Center?
Dan-neya Yancey 21:17
Yeah. So I say I grew up in Brooklyn Center, because I did, really from seventh grade on up, and I moved away. But still very close to Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park. But one of the things I would say with this question is that it's a really amazing question. And one that I urge people who are politicians, people who are working with youth, right, youth workers, community engagement leaders, leaders in their community, to ask this question about what life after now looks like to young people and to students, because those are the people that are being impacted, and families are being impacted. And when you have conversations with people and young people and students, you realize that they know what they're talking about. They know what they -- you know, we may not have the vernacular, and the words, and the correct -- always, right. We don't know about fiscal years and all these other things, but we know what's impacting us. And we know what's impacting our high schoolers and our middle schoolers, and they say it, and sometimes they don't say it, but they show it through the actions of how they're feeling that day. And that's the question that needs to be posed in student board meetings. That's the question that needs to be posed with students being reflective of that, right, students being there to make the decisions about what life looks after now, for them. So when we talk about summer school, and oftentimes -- I heard this somewhere or I saw it somewhere, someone was saying, oftentimes I hear conversations about, we need to catch our students up, we need to catch them up. Hey, they're so behind, because of COVID-19. And just, you know, that hybrid classes and all the things that have been impacting them. But we don't ask ourselves what it means to start over. And sometimes we need to start over, we need to admit that we've had a rough time. We've had a rough year. And all of these traumatic events are not just going to go away over summer time. In fact, this is the time for us to build community to talk to young people and students about what they need, what they want, and put funding in action behind that. That's what's super important. And so, as much as I would love to answer that question, I'm also not a student anymore. So I would say that question is really important to be posed to young people and students because they know what they want, and they know what they need. And they oftentimes tell you, and tell us adults, and many times we don't listen, or we don't pay attention as well as we should. And we can learn to, we can -- if we learn something, we can also unlearn it. So that's what I would say is we can unlearn that behavior, and start to really listen to what young people and students want for themselves.
Liz Bolsoni 24:17
That's a great point. And you know, starting over is a really important idea because you you can't build up when you are starting from a low point. So that is it for today. I appreciate your time, so much. Dan-neya. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for sharing your college experience and a little bit about your story. So, appreciate it!
Dan-neya Yancey 24:48
Absolutely. Thanks for having me again. I also want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. This podcast was brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. I encourage you to dig into the resources we mentioned in this episode, which you can find in the show notes on our website at lifeafternowpodcast.mn.gov Don't forget to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts, so you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, everyone. I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.