Often times, recent graduates become overwhelmed with different perceptions of life after graduation. Even for the ones who seemingly had it all figured out and calculated since freshman year, accepting this reality can be scary, because the years known to be the best times of their lives are coming to an end and now it’s time to execute those plans.

As the final year of college approaches, students are under this pressure to start thinking more about life post-graduation. It’s that moment to sum up everything college has taught them and gather all the connections and resources. Factors such as geographic location, salaries, benefits, etc. all make a difference now. Once the excitement of graduation subsides, brand new alumni are now in position to decide what’s next.

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Fear aside, there is always a cluster of graduates who understand the days of their lives have just began, as there is now a golden opportunity for dreams and business plans to take off. After taking the time to converse with a few alumni of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, I decided to start a series dedicated to the go-getters who prove that life after graduation can be rewarding and by defying the myths of reality, life after graduation isn’t so bad after all. The overall purpose of this series is to document the journeys of success stories in the making and to graduates who managed to do the work, create opportunities for themselves, and have now reach a new level, or on the brink of achieving, success. Hopefully this sparks interest in continuing the conversation amongst other HBCU alumni.

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This week on HBCU Young Alumni Series, we interviewed Morgan McKenzie an alumna of the North Carolina A&T State University and radio personality at 102 Jamz in Greensboro, NC. Straight Talk Radio with Chris Lea premiers every Sunday morning, covering a variety of topics that revolve mostly around political and socioeconomic topics, as well as hosting in depth conversations with residents of the Triad, NC area to help bridge the gap between issues within the black community and solutions.

CH: I remember meeting you back in 2008 and you were so shy and timid back then! Are you able to recall where did your shift start? Did you feel like you were less confident then? If so, where did you gain your confidence?

MC: You’re right about that…I’ve always been extremely shy and timid. When I was a child I barely talked to anyone unless they were family, or close friends. I consider myself to be an introvert. I’m very selectively social, and interacting with people can be a bit draining for me, but it is something I fight through every day because there is no way to success without communicating with people. I would say my confidence came from performing. I was a dancer/baton twirler for Golden Delight at North Carolina A&T. The dance team helped groom me to be the woman I am today through dance, showmanship, discipline, and leadership. Golden Delight allowed me to exude confidence in every way. Each performance gave me the opportunity to own who I am by being fierce! If you don’t speak up and believe in yourself, no one will take you seriously. Confidence is everything!

CH: Was radio something you had in mind when you were mapping out your career path as a freshman student at A&T?

MC: As a freshman student at A&T, I was an undecided major for a while. All I knew was that I wanted to be a part of the marching band, and I would figure out my career path along the way. Despite me being such an introvert, I’ve always been interested in broadcasting. I was undecided, but found myself registering for Journalism courses which lead me in the area of audio and video production. Music has always been a major part of my life, and to have a job in radio where music is the basis of the position was pretty dope to me. I landed an internship with 102 Jamz working for the Wild Out Wake Up Show with Kyle Santillian, B-DAHT, and Toshamakia and the rest is history! I still can’t believe I am now a co-host for a talk show on the radio station I’ve practically grown up listening to. I was just grabbing coffee and breakfast for the radio personalities, and now I am one! Pretty dope.

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CH: I’d say! We all have different motives and perspectives when it comes to success, so considering where you are now, how has education, specifically at an HBCU, helped shape your definition of success?

MC: Attending North Carolina A&T was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Oftentimes, while walking through campus I would look around in awe of all the beautiful, black students making their way to classes, which is a wonderful sight to see. I know that we are future leaders, and that our ancestors gave their lives so that we would be afforded the opportunity to become educated. Attending an HBCU gave me a sense of pride and identity. I was finally taught rich, black history without it being watered down. I was taught about Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ancient Kemet, Black Folklore, The Greensboro Four, and more! It was exciting and inspiring. I’m grateful for my HBCU for introducing me to knowledge that helped me gain a sense of who I am and where I come from.

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Photo cred. DeÄan Pridgeon @deaanpridgeon

CH: What other facets of journalism are you interested in? Do you see yourself thriving career wise in that field for the long run or do you think you’ll switch things up a bit in a few years?

MC: I want to be involved in journalism in many ways. I like working behind the scenes in the area of production. I enjoy working with cameras and editing audio and video. I would also like to be in front of the camera at some point. I really admire the work of Marc Lamont Hill because he is a scholar, author and activist; all of which I aspire to be. You can find him dropping knowledge on CNN, BET, Huffington Post, and social media discussing topics ranging from politics to pop culture. I want to be multifaceted like him. I want to be able to use my platform to engage, and to inform. I definitely see myself thriving in the area of journalism whether it’s digital journalism, entertainment news, hard news…I’m game. I want to be a positive voice that incites change and encourages people to seek knowledge.

CH: What’s your favorite part about being a radio host on one of the most successful stations for R&B and Hip Hop in the triad area?

MC: My favorite part about being a radio host is that the topics covered on Straight Talk informs people and encourages them to think. Chris Lea and I pose questions on our show that people are afraid to discuss such as racism, mental health, and sexual identity. We give our listeners the platform to share their concerns and to ask questions so that they will be informed and open- minded. Also, being on-air is allowing me to find my voice—the voice I used to hide. I deal with anxiety and shyness presently, but being on a talk show forces me out of it and I love it. It’s a challenge, but it shows me that my voice has power and purpose.

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Photo/design cred. DRL Toons @drltoons