Fellowship and community are important to Levi Daniels. Whilst a student at Virginia Tech, he worked with other students to found the Student African American Brotherhood to offer that fellowship to African American students on campus, and opened himself up to engaging with others to find common understanding.
Levi grew up in southeastern D.C. and describes himself as an academically minded kid. To nurture that, his parents tried enrolling him at a Catholic School. However after a number of fights, Levi asked to rather go to public school. He ended up going to a school close to the Naval Research Lab where his father worked, and describes his friends as a “veritable United Nations.” From there he attended a magnet school for junior high, and then on to Banneker.
Banneker was next door to Howard University, and while Levi knew that he wanted to study business, he didn’t necessarily want to go to the college across the street from his high school. Drexel was initially his first choice, and even though Levi was accepted to all the colleges he applied to, it came down to a choice between Howard and Tech. While on a high school trip to Europe, Levi made his choice and chose Virginia Tech.
Getting involved in campus, particularly starting in his junior year, helped Levi fall in love with Tech. He was a member of the Black Student Alliance, and was involved with the VT Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, and other organizations were he got to interact with administrators, and came to understand the way Tech ran, both as an educational institution and as a business.
Levi also appreciated the opportunities to engage with students from different backgrounds; to talk about the way they felt about different things, their different understandings and perspectives, even to have conversations about why dressing up in black face is offensive.
Understandably, sometimes however, these kind of interactions could also feel tiring and irritating. The Black Cultural Center provided a social, welcoming, safe space where Levi could relax and be himself, and also have engaging discussions with other black graduate and undergraduate students. Levi stressed, however, that it was not exclusionary.
“You are welcome to come in, it’s just that when you come in the dialect will be different. Some of the social cues will be a bit different because this is where we feel most comfortable, and we’re going to talk the way that we’re accustomed to talking and we will not code switch like you don’t realize we do, which is to effectively translate my experience to yours.”Levi Daniels
While at Tech, Levi also got to know a number of international students, which helped him understand their different cultures and life experiences.
“…even though there are legitimate differences between us all, distinct differences between us all, they should be appreciated. They also make for some very interesting similarities.”Levi Daniels
All of these diverse interactions, Levi credits with helping him think about situations differently. Engaging in volunteer work in Appalachia, he realized that the problems that he experienced in Southeast D.C. were similar to those experienced by people living in Appalachia. Learning about Tech’s history as a land grant university helped him understand its context, and consider a different perspective.
Service, and helping your community are important for Levi, and so Tech’s motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is an important part of his Virginia Tech experience
“That’s where kind of my love for the school comes from, because they actually do the work. Other people may sit there and pontificate and give you all these theories, but the Tech people by and large, the ones that I’ve met, they do the work.”Levi Daniels
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