For Justice English, moving to the University of Oregon was a unique experience. As an alumni of Roosevelt High School, one of the more diverse schools the Portland area, Justice felt a significant change when she arrived at the UO. Justice remembered the feeling of walking into a lecture hall filled with hundreds of students, and not seeing a single person that resembled her. The shock of being so different from her peers made Justice feel like she had lost some of her culture.
As her time at the UO continued, Justice found her place in the Black Studies Program. Black Studies has been a pivotal experience in Justice’s academic career. Justice decided to join the Black Studies minor to contextualize her experiences and to be in a space where “black students could learn”. This program has provided Justice with the community she needed to find at UO. Justice has also thoroughly enjoyed the classes she has taken in the Black Studies program as a part of the minor, specifically citing BLST 141 “Writing in Black” and ES 250 “Intro to African American Studies'' as two of her favorites. She appreciated that the course material in both these classes addressed issues that would not have been discussed in her high school classes.
Along with enjoying her academics in the Black Studies program, Justice says the most unique part of being a Black Studies minor is being able to know who she is. For Justice, Black Studies has been an important factor in feeling “safe and protected” and has helped her feel both empowered and resilient. Justice would definitely recommend the Black Studies minor to students who feel isolated because of their identity, and to non-Black students so they can better understand the Black experience.
Outside of academics, Justice has been working on a trauma informed project that trains teachers and educators how to work with kids of color. This project is part of a bigger organization called “I Am M.O.R.E”, which Justice and her peers started their senior year of high school. I Am M.O.R.E (Making Ourselves Resilient Everyday) is an organization that centers youth voices, and uses trauma-informed, culturally relevant materials to help folks engage with their communities. Through I Am M.O.R.E, Justice has been invited to work with the Portland Public School System, and hopes to bring I Am M.O.R.E’s mission to Eugene.
Along with continuing I Am M.O.R.E’s work, Justice’s professional aspirations include reforming the education system and wants to use her Black Studies minor in doing so. Justice is interested in solving problems within the education system through being an educator and looking at policy issues. She wants to use her knowledge from the Black Studies minor to help students in the education system find success, and to prevent systemic issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, therefore helping increase college graduation rates for these students.