LUMBERTON – A Lumberton native and member of the Lumbee tribe has defied the odds against her to graduate from Cornell University in an effort to stand up for others.
Kimberly Fuqua graduated from Cornell University with a Masters of Public Administration in May with a focus on social and educational policy. The 39-year-old was one of three curators selected from graduate programs at the launch ceremony on May 29. An outstanding student at Cornell, she was also one of three members of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Diversity and Inclusion.
Fuqua has also served as co-chair of the Cornell Native Graduate Student Association and Cornell’s Women in Public Policy. She participated in three summer camps, partnering with the Iroquois Nationals Development Group to create an educational program to help native lacrosse players have a better chance in college.
Fuqua plans to pursue a career in higher education to advocate for minorities and students with disabilities and to work in politics to ensure a fair and appropriate education for students in public schools. Fuqua also said she wanted to work in the government someday.
âI want people to understand that their voice matters,â Fuqua said.
Fuqua said her journey has not been easy and her persistence has helped her open doors to opportunity.
âI basically grew up in a trailer park,â Fuqua said.
âI had a very sweet and humble start,â she added.
Fuqua said that as a little girl she was studious and loved to read.
âI just want the girls to know it’s OK,â she said. “It’s good to love to read and to be ‘weird’ because you’re not weird, you’re just different.”
Personal events brought about a change later in life and at the age of 34, Fuqua decided to pursue her studies at Robeson Community College.
âReally, Robeson Community College changed my life because that’s where I discovered who I was as a person outside of being a mother, outside of being a wife,â he said. she declared.
The RCC associate of arts degree will always be her âmost prestigious degree,â because she worked really hard to get it, Fuqua said.
âWe are very proud of Kimberly Fuqua for her accomplishments at UNCP, as well as Cornell University,â said Cheryl Hemric, RCC Information Officer.
âWe wish her every success as she begins her journey to help others and make an impact in the communities she serves. She’s a great example of what attending community college can help you achieve, and she’s one of the shining stars at Robeson Community College, âHemric also said in a statement.
After her stint at RCC, Fuqua continued her education at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where she studied abroad in England, Belize and Berlin, Germany. She graduated from UNCP with a Bachelor of Special Education in 2019.
Kevin Freeman, associate professor of political science and public administration at UNCP, describes his former student as “curious, hardworking, motivated and energetic.”
âHer study abroad experience has opened up so many new opportunities for her, and I couldn’t be more proud to play a small role in seeing her grow as a global citizen and community leader,â he said. -he declares.
After graduating from UNCP, Fuqua attended Cornell University in the fall of 2019.
She said attending an Ivy League institution as a first generation college student and living hundreds of miles from home was very difficult. There were times when she felt like she was out of place.
Fuqua remembers buying casual clothes for class, cutting his hair, and trying to lose his accent.
âBut then I realized, you know, these are the things that make me unique,â ââshe said.
Fuqua also got involved with other American Indians on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, which kept her feet on the ground as she pursued her studies.
However, she credits UNCP professors like Freeman for their impact on her educational journey.
âGleaning professors from the UNCP allowed me to enter the Ivy League with a perspective that allowed me to tap into my greatness when there were many days when I felt I didn’t. didn’t belong, âFuqua said.
âMy professors at UNCP have always supported my Cornell journey, whether it was sending cards, sending an email, or helping out on social media. I thank Dr Roger Ladd and Dr Gretchen Robinson for challenging me academically to give my best. These teachers forced me to think seriously and challenged me to think outside of my normsâ¦ I am grateful for my time at UNCP because it generated a spirit of success in me â, he said. she declared.
Fuqua hopes her story can inspire others to pursue their dreams through education.
âI feel like this diploma is just a way of saying anything is possible,â said Fuqua.
She said some of the greatest moments in her life happened because she took a chance, and she encourages others to take it.
âTake the first step,â she said.
Sometimes it is difficult for people to see âa way outâ when they live in disadvantaged socio-economic areas, she said.
But opportunities such as scholarships are available and can help them achieve their dreams, Fuqua said.
âThere are opportunities. Look at me, âFuqua said.