First-generation student Demetri Board, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, was introduced to Texas Tech at a college education summer camp.
During the summer between his junior and senior years at North Garland High School in North Texas, Demetri Board attended a Texas Tech University college education summer camp. The camp, one of several led by the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DDEI), gave students from underrepresented populations the chance to learn about college life. Students who participate in these types of camps get a glimpse of the Texas Tech experience, with the hope they will see themselves as Red Raiders.
In the year that followed, summer camp staff surprised Board and his fellow campers with a visit, cementing his commitment to attend Texas Tech.
"It meant so much to me," said Board, a first-generation student. "My journey at Texas Tech began in fall 2016."
Now, Board is set to graduate this spring with a bachelor's degree in communication studies with a minor in creative media industries from the College of Media & Communication. During his time at Texas Tech, he's helped with a lot of the same type of outreach and engagement efforts as the summer camp staff he first met all those years ago.
"I have mostly been involved working as a student assistant in the DDEI office, College Connect," he said. "The cool thing is it's the same office that hosted the summer camp I attended."
Though he's made it successfully to graduation, Board said the journey wasn't easy in the beginning. From struggling financially to contemplating dropping out, Board said the first two years were the most difficult.
"I regret not getting any scholarships because I saw the stress that it created for my parents," Board said. "After freshman year, I became better at managing my money. This allowed me to keep from putting any more stress on my parents."
During his freshman and sophomore years, Board said he also found it difficult to figure out why he had decided to complete the whole college experience.
"I wasn't confident in what I wanted to major in, and I just started to question everything," he said. "Thankfully, I met up with an awesome adviser within the College of Arts & Sciences, and she helped me find my major within the College of Media & Communication. After changing my major twice, I found that communication and media was my passion. From that point on, I had a renewed interest and was inspired to continue my education."
One of the first professors Board had a class with after changing his major was Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter, associate professor of communication studies and the assistant dean of international affairs for the College of Media & Communication.
"I do not think she even understands how much impact she has had on my success as a college student," Board said. "She was a big part of me falling in love with my major. It's so amazing to see the research and accomplishments she has had within the college, and the impact she has on all of her students is something every professor should have. She honestly has been one of the greatest mentors I could ask for."
Board's leadership and hard work within DDEI and his college has led to several achievements and accolades. After joining Mentor Tech as a protégé, Board became a Protégé Advisory Committee (PAC) leader, helping support newer protégés and assisting staff leaders. Within his college, he served as a Dean's Student Ambassador, earned a spot on the Dean's List and also was a part of the Communication Studies Society.
"Witnessing Demetri's success and growth as a scholar, student assistant and student leader is a testament to the importance of students connecting college to career and beyond," said Jade Silva Tovar, DDEI senior director. "Demetri's passion for giving back to his peers and youth summer camp participants is important to inspire the next generation of college students to persist and achieve their dreams. This is part of the legacy Demetri is leaving, and we are proud to have him as part of our DDEI family."
He also received a nomination for student assistant of the year for his work as a student liaison with College Connect and earned a Raiders Who Rock Pursuit of Excellence Award after being nominated by Punyanunt-Carter in 2019. She said she nominated Board because of his huge passion to improve Texas Tech for other students by encouraging his peers and new students to succeed and strive for honor.
"Transitioning to college is very hard for some students, and Demetri always tried to help students who were dealing with homesickness or feeling like they did not belong," Punyanunt-Carter said. "There are people in this world who make the extra effort to make others feel special, and Demetri is one of those people. He was always willing to do that for other students, and he helped convince them that Texas Tech was where they belong. We need more students like him.
"I'm truly amazed by what he has accomplished at Texas Tech University. I know his future will be bright and impactful because he has made a tremendous positive difference in so many people's lives."
Board said without the network of support he had during his time at Texas Tech, he may not have been as successful. He said while his parents have had the biggest impact, he also was able to build an amazing support system within the university.
"Outside of my immediate family, it was amazing to realize I have met so many people within this university that cared for my success as much as I did," Board said. "There were so many people I could go to for advice, including my mentors at Mentor Tech, staff within the division, professors and staff within the College of Media & Communication, and the friends I made. Everyone has made a big impact, and it's something I honestly cannot thank them enough for."
Of all his accomplishments, Board said he is most proud of graduating, despite not being able to walk across the stage this month due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"The feeling of being a first-generation student and understanding that I wouldn't be in this position without the sacrifices my parents made is what really makes me proud of this achievement," Board said. "I started to compare my graduation to other previous graduations without the pandemic and began to understand how much was really being taken away. It is sad to think of everything I missed out on. I would have loved to have a traditional last semester at Texas Tech, but I know other students are taking this much harder than I am. Even though I have been in my apartment practicing social distancing, I really feel for my peers who have been forced to return home and continue classes along with additional stresses that might have come up."
Board said when he began hearing campus would possibly shut down for the rest of the semester due to the pandemic, it was hard to imagine it actually happening.
"It was hard to believe," Board said. "I felt like everything would get figured out before the country needed to go that far. Then it happened. Even the first week, it really didn't feel real. A few weeks in, I began to realize we were going to be sitting in our homes for months. I really started feeling it when events were being canceled one by one, and I saw the social aspect of my senior year just disappear. It was honestly just crazy to think of because the last semester of your senior year of college isn't something you can get back."
Still, he said, the events of this semester alone show how resilient and adaptive he and his peers can be.
"It's not something we should take lightly," Board said. "This isn't something any of us could have seen coming back in January, but we shouldn't let it take away the joy and accomplishment of graduating from college. The graduates of 2020 have so much to be proud of."
As he prepares to participate in Texas Tech's virtual graduation ceremony next week, Board said he still has lots of memories to remember his time at the university.
"One of the coolest things was getting to see Patrick Mahomes play in person before he went to the NFL," Board said. "There is something amazing about being a part of the student section during football and basketball games. The Raider Power chant tradition is something that I could never forget. Hearing it during games and even throughout the campus always compels me to join in. Working at College Connect, we host campus visits for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. I like to teach the kids to do the chant. Sometimes, if we are lucky, a college student walking past us would join in."
Board said he will always be proud of being a Red Raider.
"There's a reputation that you have just by being a part of Texas Tech," Board said. "Whenever I had the chance to attend conferences and meetings with people who worked outside the university, it was so cool to hear the positive things everyone had to say about graduates that come from Texas Tech. It makes me proud to be a Red Raider every time I hear someone talk about the university."