by Dave Buchanan
University of Wisconsin-Parkside Public Information OfficerAs the first person in his immediate family to attend a university, Milwaukee native Curtis Jackson knew his education was important–and not only to himself.“I felt there was a lot riding on my college experience for me and for my parents, who were learning how to be parents of college students and how to support them in an appropriate way,” he said.Fortunately for Jackson, he became part of a group of students—five Milwaukee friends—who helped each other make it through not only the University of Wisconsin-Parkside where they met, but through graduate school and on to their first professional jobs. Jackson, Tony DuBose, Terrence Shaw, Aaron Slocum, and Martel Pipkins formed a special bond Slocum described as being “like a family within a family.”“We were low-income college students, all from the inner city,” Slocum said. “We all looked out for one another, we all made sure we we’re doing okay. So, really, it was a family feeling. We were pushing each other to be successful in terms of school, in terms of just the way of living life, and making sure that no one fell to the wayside or dropped out of college.”DuBose and Shaw arrived first at UW-Parkside. DuBose quickly found two student mentors who helped him succeed in school and in leadership positions.“They always told me, ‘We’re doing this for you, to help you, so that you can help the next group of people who come in after you.’ And I really took that to heart,” DuBose said. “They saw some potential in me that I didn’t see in myself.”DuBose and Shaw were on campus when Jackson and Slocum arrived. Pickens would arrive later. They found a mentor in Office of Multicultural Student Affairs Director Damian Evans. Evans, a UW-Parkside graduate known as DJ, introduced the students to The Three Doctors and their book “The Pact.”This was the true story of Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt, and George Jenkins, three Newark teenagers who made an agreement to push each other toward their shared ambition to become doctors. Their remarkable story resonated with the UW-Parkside students who wanted to emulate the doctors’ success.With each other’s support, the students navigated what are at times the rough seas of university life. And when they needed advice, they had a common fallback position.“Let’s go talk with DJ,” Jackson said. It was their common statement in times of need.
In addition to the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, UW-Parkside offered other resources to help them grow as students and as campus leaders.“Parkside is great in terms giving people the opportunity to succeed,” said Shaw. “They have a lot of resources for students who are unsure about their abilities to be successful in higher education and giving them the tools to get through.”Friendship is a powerful resource as well. Evans said the support and strength of the group helped them grow as students and beat the long odds facing African American males pursuing higher education.DuBose and Jackson earned master’s degrees from Ball State University. DuBose is now at the University of South Florida as a residence life coordinator while Jackson recently joined the staff at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Slocum graduated from Indiana State and is community coordinator at Georgia College of State University. Shaw graduated from Southern Illinois-Carbondale and started at Saint Louis University. Pipkins completed his master’s and is now working at Minnesota State Mankato. Each plans to become a doctor.As for their friendship, to a man each believes their “family within a family” bond will endure. “Even after not seeing them for a year, it didn’t feel awkward,” Pipkins said of a reunion in Milwaukee. “We laughed together. It was just as strong.”