“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care!”- Theodore Roosevelt. As a first generation, underrepresented, disadvantaged, low-income Black girl from North Tulsa, now a two-time graduate of higher education, concerns amid funding problems for OU’s Project Threshold saddened and angered many alums of the program. The reason I opened with this quote is because I, Caroline “Inspires” Nicole Bennett, your Miss Black University of Oklahoma 2014-2015, had no intention of attending The University of Oklahoma. It wasn’t until I realized how much this university (my recruiter, an alumnus of Project Threshold) cared about me that I began to slightly reconsider my perspective on attending. I was accepted into every Historically Black University I applied to: Howard University, Hampton University, Tennessee State University, and Xavier University. However, it was through the efforts of my recruiter that I made the decision to commit to my alma mater, The University of Oklahoma. My recruiter showed me how much they cared about me, as a first generation, underrepresented, disadvantaged, low-income Black girl from North Tulsa, and how I could in turn care about what this university had to offer. Dear reader, do you see how this works?
As a leading university in the state of Oklahoma, a decision that could result in loss of funding for Project Threshold would send a message to students of color who identify as first generation, underrepresented, disadvantaged, and low-income: your university does not care about you. I want to ask the OU executive administration, is this the message you want to send? If so, allow me to make myself very clear: without Project Threshold, there is no University of Oklahoma. Period.
Project Threshold is the only space on campus that minority students can call home. Project Threshold is the only space on campus where my people are more than just another number or statistic.
I am Project Threshold.
It is because of Project Threshold and Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, two of the dopest TRiO programs, that my testimony is what it is today. I graduated loan- and debt-free from two of the greatest universities: The University of Oklahoma and The Ohio State University. My successes are in part thanks to my family in TRiO, which truly commits to the ideology of “No Child Left Behind.”
In March 2018, I and Mr. Black OU were brought back to speak to the students at the George McLaurin and Sylvia A. Lewis Leadership Conference. Seeing the number of students of color in the audience brought me to tears. Following our interactions with the students, I received countless emails and text messages from students who were touched by our stories. Just as I attribute all success in this life to God, I attribute all of my success while at The University of Oklahoma to Project Threshold. Simple.