Lessons learned at Howard have helped me navigate an unusual college experience


By Monet Heath

I always had this idea of what my life would be like: I had a concrete plan of where I would attend school, how long it would take me to graduate, which clubs and organizations I would join and what goals I would pursue after graduation. My life was reduced to a timeline.

However, when things beyond your control mess up the vision of your ideal life, you have to adapt, using what you have learned in the past to help confront the future. Fortunately, my time at Howard University is helping me get through my current health troubles and is motivating me to return and graduate.

In the summer of 2022, I was blessed with the opportunity to become a Rhoden Fellow. Before moving from Michigan to Washington for the summer, I began facing challenges with my body. I felt weakness in my limbs, as well as tingling daily extending from my face down to my legs, and knew something was not right. I took several trips to the emergency room, where everything would appear fine. It was not until I underwent an MRI that I learned I had a small tumor in my brain.

The doctors assured me it was not urgent to remove the tumor, but I decided to stay home from school to focus on my health. At that time I felt so lost. I was going into my senior year with my dream internship and was prepared to grow outside of Howard. I often asked myself, “Why now?”

Although I initially struggled with having to leave Howard during my senior year, I relied on lessons I had learned during my collegiate career thus far to guide me through my time away from school.

During my junior year of high school, the Michigan Club at Howard offered an opportunity to stay on campus during the week of Accepted Student Day. I met so many people and was able to attend several classes. I instantly fell in love with Howard and knew it was where I was meant to be.

Attending Howard created a lot of firsts in my life, but the one that shocked me most was hearing the word “no.” In high school I was at the top in my class and was used to being given opportunities. When you’re surrounded by students who have achieved the same amount of success as you – and even more – you have to work harder to earn the opportunities you want. Those tough experiences of rejection during my freshman year helped me become the person I am today. As much as they hurt back then, they were needed, especially in light of the unusual college experience I have had since.

During the second half of my freshman year, as well as my entire sophomore year, I attended Howard virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. The adjustment was extremely difficult, and I initially slacked off in my classes. What motivated me during that time was remembering how hard I had worked freshman year. I had been a student with high honors and had to continue that regardless of the circumstances. This allowed me to be successful while learning online. I maintained a 3.9 GPA, joined organizations such as the Spotlight Network and Revolt Inc., and even obtained an internship. My work during the pandemic was challenging but made returning to Howard even better.

Coming back to campus as a junior helped me find my footing. I made friends and discovered more opportunities on campus to work sports games – I even hosted my own sports talk show. The work I was doing helped land me the Rhoden Fellowship for the following school year. I had grown immensely since coming to Howard and hoped to continue learning more as a student and journalist heading into my senior year – then my tumor was discovered.

As a woman of faith, I believe all things happen for a reason. When I reflect on all that has happened to me since my junior year, I obviously would not have chosen the path I am currently on but choose to look at the positives of my situation.

I am home with family and friends whom I love and still have gained wonderful experiences as a Rhoden Fellow. Attending the NCAA women’s Final Four, one of the most talked-about sports events of the year, was fun and eye-opening. Going to the NFL draft and interacting with many NFL staffers, players and legends was another experience I will always remember. I also have another year to grow as a journalist at Howard and I hope to obtain gain another internship or job opportunity.

Howard has taught me to work hard and take every opportunity I can. The unique experiences I have had while in college have taught me to remind myself of how far I have come no matter my circumstances – and of how far I will go in the future. Yes, the future is scary, especially with the idea of having surgery and being more conscious of my health, but my support system has been amazing and helpful.

Attending Howard has been an honor, and I am ready to return and graduate from the historically Black college I fell in love with as a teenager.