Tyler Cook stands outside by a fence.Tyler Cook ’21 will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in anthropology and sociology and minoring in English. Tyler has served as a Board of Trustees student associate, president of Association of Black Collegians, and Portlock student coordinator.

 As a first-generation student entering Lafayette, I can honestly say that I didn’t believe I was ready for college. I was afraid that I’d fail.

It’s funny when I mention this in public because the response from folks who know me always seems to refer to what an amazing student I was in high school. OK, yes, I was a 4.05 weighted GPA student inducted into the National Honors Society and completed a dual enrollment program at Community College of Philadelphia. I even graduated in the top 10 of my class with over $600,000 in scholarships and a couple of college transfer credits.

As crazy as it sounds, despite all my great achievements, I struggled to believe my acceptance into college meant that I was ready. There was so much I didn’t know about this world. The reality for me was working a full-time job at 17, helping to support my mom, who is a single parent, and finding whatever alternative I could to the drugs and gun violence in my community.

Tyler Cook sits outside by a metal staircase.As a Black queer, I felt that I was going into college blindfolded, that even though I knew I was going to transform my level of thinking, I had to keep my shield up. I didn’t know how people would react when they saw the texture of my skin. I was too afraid for them to hear the sound of my voice. I was often familiar with how folks like myself become vehicles of harm when we risk being vulnerable.

My first couple semesters I had no idea what I wanted to study and felt overwhelmed with family obligations, but I didn’t want the school’s help. I probably would’ve continued down that road of doubt if it wasn’t for Prof. Randi Gill-Sadler. Prof. Gill-Sadler was the first faculty member who broke through the barrier and has become such a major support system during my time at Lafayette.

It is why I’ve taken every single one of her classes, and when I was elected president of Association of Black Collegians, I didn’t hesitate to ask her to be the adviser. She has not only been integral to uplifting me every step of the way, but is known for empowering many other students, faculty, and administrators.

The safety net I was able to form because of Prof. Gill-Sadler and many other phenomenal members of the community is why I was able to welcome Lafayette with open arms. It is why I am finally able to show Lafayette all of who I am in the most fulfilling and unapologetic way possible. It is why I can’t wait to say I officially graduated from college.

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