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DU Student Working to Inspire Others

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Theresa Ahrens

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March 24 marks the eighth annual Black Male Initiative Summit, and graduate student Cameron Simmons (BA ’16) is drawing on his passion and experiences at DU to help develop this year’s curriculum. Simmons, who grew up in Colorado Springs and who will graduate with a master of science in management from the Daniels College of Business in June, has been involved with the summit since he was a first-year student five years ago. The newsroom caught up with Simmons to get a peek at this year’s summit program, but also to learn more about his leadership experiences on campus.

Cameron Simmons
DU graduate student Cameron Simmons. Photo Courtesy: Wayne Armstrong, University of Denver

Q: What has your experience at DU over the past five years been like?

A: I love DU and Colorado. There have been so many opportunities here to get involved, create connections and learn about who I am as a person [and] to not only be a good student, but a good citizen of the world. My experiences in the Pioneer Leadership Program, Excelling Leadership Institute and as president of the Black Student Alliance allowed me to use my voice and become a role model for the black community to help change the narrative in communities of color. I also studied abroad in Ghana, which expanded my views to be more globally minded and realize how influential the U.S. can be on the rest of the world.

Q: You’re a leader in executing the University’s goal of being a diverse and inclusive community that is welcoming for all. What does a truly diverse DU look like to you?

A: I think DU has a great goal, and there has been some progress since my first year. But we still need to address the issues of diversity and inclusion head on and not tiptoe around the tough conversations. To me a truly diverse DU is having safe spaces for dialogue around all issues; and getting students involved in the conversations from their first day here — during orientation and the first-year seminar; being intentional and diving into the various identities that exist; and creating an environment where people are exposed to differences early on and are able to see the value of what each and every person brings to the table.

Q: Your time as a student is coming to an end. What are your plans for the future?

A: The dream is to get into Harvard’s education doctorate program in a few years and then come back to DU or a school district in Colorado. Education is something I’ve become very passionate about, and determining how we cultivate an environment that helps to build up the people we want to see in the world. Education is more than just the technical skills you learn; it’s about the life skills you learn as well. Our education system doesn’t get the attention that it needs, and hopefully I can be an asset in creating the structure to give schools what they need to produce an environment that fosters the individuals and values that I think society needs.

Q: As part of your passion for education, what can you tell us about this year’s Black Male Initiative Summit?

A: I’ve always been on the planning board for the summit and have even been a facilitator, but this year I’m helping to develop the curriculum. This has been exciting, because I get to help determine which tools we want these young men to walk away with when they leave the summit. We’re looking at what the world is telling them and teaching them to tell their own story. We’re connecting them to a brotherhood and network to help them awaken their identities and understand that being a black man can be dynamic and that they don’t have to fall into the monolithic stereotypes. Ultimately, we want them to unleash their full potential and realize that they don’t have to be limited by their circumstance and that college is possible for them. I wish that I could have had something like this to attend when I was younger — to have someone inspire me about manhood and black manhood and how we can elevate young black men to be excellent.