After the COVID-19 pandemic took away UNCF New Orleans’ 2020 Mayor’s Masked Ball, the highly-anticipated gala returned in 2021 as a virtual event. The slickly produced ball earned rave reviews, but one appearance stood out. Dillard senior criminal justice major Justin Baker gave a memorable testimonial about how the United Negro College Fund is helping him complete his undergraduate journey.
Baker, a native of Toledo, Ohio, came to Dillard from Sinclair Community College. The journey has not been easy. He began college immediately after high school, but the combination of having to provide for his family and being unprepared for the rigors of college led him to an early departure. Baker decided to resume his journey at Sinclair then transferred to The Oaks. With his dream of earning a bachelor’s degree within reach, Baker has his sights set on his next step. The highly energetic and ambitious Bleu Devil is looking forward to earning his Master of International Affairs from The Pennsylvania State University.
The Office of Communications and Marketing asked Baker about his Dillard experience, his thoughts for his fellow Bleu Devils and also about his next steps.
Dillard University: What made you transfer to Dillard?
Justin Baker: What made me transfer to Dillard was my community college advisor. They had success with (Sinclair) alumni transfer here as well as the aspect of an HBCU where people could understand me and guide me in a way that most in Ohio couldn’t.
DU: What has it been like as a student sitting in a classroom with younger peers?
JB: It has been interesting and eye opening sitting in a classroom with younger peers. I saw where they were going because I had already been there. I could also offer advice and information I wish people had offered me.
DU: You started college as a traditional student but decided to leave. Talk about what brought you back to college.
JB: I started college right after high school, but wasn’t ready for the responsibility or commitment. I was thrusted into the real world where I discovered that you need a degree to succeed.
DU: Are there students at Dillard who remind you of younger Justin Baker? If so, what advice do you have for them?
JB: Yes, many people here remind me of younger me. The advice I would give is just take it one day at a time. Don’t rush life and make sure you apply yourself as much as possible.
DU: Students often say that they feel “at home” at Dillard. Have you felt that way? If so, what should we keep doing to make more students feel at home?
JB: Yes, I have felt at home at Dillard. The way to keep students feeling this way is to remember that they are just figuring things out and to check in on them as much as possible. Just to make sure that they are not feeling lost or forgotten.
DU: You seem to have a burning desire to be a policy change maker. Talk about what you want to do and why it’s so important to you.
JB: I have a passion not just to be a policy change maker, but to make new policy that benefits the whole of society and not just a selected few. We have seen how when only a small group of people get to make laws for everyone, especially those who haven’t experienced what most of America has. It tends to move the country in a direction of unrest and unbalance civility.
DU: Add any thoughts that you feel would be encouraging for students who have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on their college journeys.
JB: While working and studying, the end goal may be hard to see. It is up to you to have a goal in mind and good practices to remind you that once you obtain your goal. You’re not finished, you have just begun on an adventure that you have been preparing for your entire life.