On a residential college campus like Longwood, much of the learning takes place through the act of conversation – people of different backgrounds and experiences talking and listening, long after class, in residence halls and over meals.
At Longwood, there’s a student known for starting many of those conversations. Mikah HoSang ’18, of Chesapeake, an academically accomplished student who aspires to be a Residence Life Supervisor, is also Head Resident Assistant in ARC Quad– where he is often spotted posting notices on bulletin boards about discussion groups and other programming related to the importance of diversity and equal opportunity.
In recognition of his efforts to help his fellow students learn from one another, Longwood has awarded HoSang one of its highest honors – the 2017 Moton Legacy Scholarship.
It really means everything to me-- that my hard work to put out a positive, diverse message is making a difference.Mikah HoSang ’18
The scholarship is awarded annually to a young man or woman with great promise for a life and career of citizen-leadership, advancing in a contemporary context the ideals espoused by those who fought for equal opportunity in Longwood’s home communities of Farmville and Prince Edward. It covers full tuition for one year.
HoSang, a kinesiology major with a 3.5 GPA and a Head Student Supervisor of Longwood Dining Services, taps into his own experience as a bi-racial, first-generation college student who grew up in a military family, moving frequently from state to state. With mixed African and Asian background (his ancestry is Jamaican and Chinese), HoSang said he struggled to fit in. But his experience at Longwood, where he has encountered students from a range of backgrounds, helped cement a strong sense of self and a determination to help others struggling with identity issues find their way.
“I was driving in my car when I got the call, totally out of the blue,” he said, recounting how he learned he had received the award. “My mind was blown, and I couldn’t speak for a few seconds. I couldn’t imagine that I was being recognized in such an incredible way. It really means everything to me-- that my hard work to put out a positive, diverse message is making a difference. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Megan Carney, who supervised HoSang last year at ARC Quad, got to know him as a student leader and nominated him for the scholarship. She said HoSang had taken advantage of every opportunity at Longwood to help other students work through challenges related to identity that he once felt himself.
“This feeling of acceptance and pride that Mikah has found at Longwood certainly speaks volumes to his ability to contribute back to the community that has embraced him and helped him find confidence in who he is,” Carney said. “Mikah has always been cognizant that most of the student population at Longwood is not exactly representative of his race and ethnicity. He has made it a personal mission to seek out resources and student run organizations to bring understanding, awareness, and education to the student population on the importance of diversity inclusion and cultural sensitivity.”
Like many Longwood students, HoSang arrived on campus four years ago without having heard the Moton story or the courage of Barbara Johns and her fellow students when they struck over school conditions at the segregated high school in 1951. But like most who walk through the doors of the museum, HoSang couldn’t help but be moved by the story, and it helped inspire him to lead efforts to make more meaningful on campus the celebration of Black History Month.
“Black history doesn’t need a month, it needs to be in every conversation we have,” he said. “This community was front and center in the national conversation about justice and equality when the Moton students walked out of their school 60 years ago, and it’s up to every one of us to stand up for those principles today.”
He began speaking with his residents and students from across campus to encourage action and understanding. The conversations took many forms, from one-on-one talks that lasted late into the night to more formalized group conversations to plan a course of action for campus.
“I’m here as a resource to help them along their path, to show them how to be proactive and find the things that really matter in life and pursue them,” he said. “I think a lot of my residents respect that and I’ve been able to touch a lot of people and have some really important conversations over the last three years. And they mean as much to me as I hope I do to them. When I won a citizen leader award last year I brought my residents as guests because they do a lot to help me be a better person too.”
HoSang has also taken pride at helping the fellow students struggling with issues of sexual identity and helping make Longwood a place of acceptance.
“Having an ongoing conversation about LGBTQ+ issues is really important to give other students a basic understanding of what sexuality and sexual identity means,” he said. “One of the biggest problems I have found as I talk to new students is that they don’t have much of an idea what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve found that if you understand something a little better, you can come to accept something that maybe you would have been reticent to before. And so it’s up to me to help them understand as much as I can about it. That’s what will make Longwood a better place and us all better people.”
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