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Leading the Way

Alumnus serves as example for other first-gen students

There is a sense of pride that sometimes comes with being a first-generation student, but it can also create a certain amount of pressure.  

Bridgewater State University alumnus Destiny Ihenacho, ’16, was the first in his family to go to college and he shares his experience to inspire others following a similar path.  

“I know what fears I faced and hearing from someone who had gone through the same thing always calmed me,” he said. “It let me know that if they can, I can.” 

Born in Brighton, Ihenacho’s family moved to Framingham before settling in Brockton.  

When his high school career was ending, he considered applying to a different school to study public policy but wasn’t completely sure if that was the right path.  

Instead, he decided to get his feet wet, and signed up for one course at BSU, Intro to American Politics. 

While he enjoyed the class, more importantly it introduced him to the Center for Multi-Cultural Affairs, better known today as the Lewis and Gaines Center for Inclusion and Equity.  

“I became attached to the center…I really enjoyed the conversations that would happen there,” Ihenacho said. “Eventually I decided to fill out an application and the rest is history.” 

While at BSU, he majored in international relations and affairs and joined the African Student Association and Model United Nation, as well as Men Integrated Brotherhood. He also participated in a service trip to Belize for one week to work at an elementary school.  

“These clubs and experiences emboldened my networking skills. It made sure I could walk up to anyone in any room and introduce myself,” Ihenacho said. “It also showed me that the world is more diverse than the world sometimes seems.” 

Today, he’s taken his skill set to Washington, DC, where he works as a research director for the Committee for Public Safety & Homeland Security.  

His responsibilities include researching transportation, law enforcement, immigration, and firearms. He then takes what he learns and advises the chairperson of the committee on what bills should be advanced and which need more attention.  

“I do enjoy influencing (aspects) of our commonwealth’s public safety bill,” he said, which recently involved redrafting a bill related to barriers for people with disabilities.  

Often when he’s making these decisions, or any career decision, he reflects on the words BSU Professor Shaheen Mozzafar, who once said, What you learn today will manifest, not today but in years to come. 

“Well, he was 100 percent correct,” Ihenacho said. “The ability to have real-life experiences at BSU meant a lot to me. The opportunity is there. BSU teaches you how to get there, you just have to show up.” 

Eventually, Ihenacho would like to run for an elected office, as the desire to build a stronger community is what fuels him.  

“I would love to put my name in a race, it would be a small reminder to young brown and black youths that, sometimes you need to take a chance and see what you can accomplish,” he said.  

And for those representing their families, who are the first to go to college, he hopes to continue setting a positive example.  

 “Being a (successful) first-generation student, enables me to open doors for current students, and more students to come, within my community and my family,” Ihenacho said.

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