“Once you graduate from here and leave, you realize that there are so many things that you thought were so important here, that are actually not that important at all,” Dr. Darrick Smith said to a packed crowd of UC Santa Cruz student leaders.

It’s one of the main ideas that Dr. Smith wanted students to reflect upon in his latest keynote Burden, Belief, & Beautiful Struggle. The event, hosted by Student Organization Leadership (SOL) Council and SOMeCA at the Stevenson Event Center on Tuesday, Feb. 28, featured Dr. Smith. He spoke to students about not being afraid to stray from the systemic path of higher education that doesn’t adequately serve students of color. 

One of the main event organizers was SOL Council Leadership Associate Karina Gutierrez, who said that they were focusing more on what higher education means to students of color and how they can use it as a tool of resistance and survival.

“In institutions like these, students of color are not always set up for success,” Gutierrez said. “Spaces like our student organizations allow us to take up space and be seen and promote who we are and why we decide to be here.”

It was SOL Council’s goal to have folks leave the event with reassurance that they’re on the right path and that they are suited for higher education. If people leave encouraged to see their futures through and enter the workforce with confidence in their skills, their goal is achieved.

For Dr. Smith? The goal is that people know a college diploma is not the end-all-be-all of life. 

“You are so powerful that you can walk into a room and say something to somebody and change their day a little bit,” Dr. Smith said. “Why would somebody wait to get a degree to change the world? You’re changing it every day. Just be intentional.”