Release Date: 
Thursday, November 7, 2019

Nursing student joins Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force for Secretary of State Benson

HFC students Azalea Hill (left) and Demitria Dawson (right) with HFC President Russell Kavalhuna.
HFC students Azalea Hill (left) and Demitria Dawson (right) with HFC President Russell Kavalhuna.

T here are 33 students on the statewide Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. HFC has a representative: Demitria Dawson.

“I am proud to represent Henry Ford College and be a part of enhancing voter engagement on my campus, as well as in my community,” said Dawson, of Detroit, who is majoring in nursing at HFC.

The CSATF’s mission is to get more young people engaged in the voting process. The 33 CSATF members will meet three times this fall.

“My reason for joining was to get more information for myself and my peers in our community who don’t really know much about voting, voting policies, and the voting process. For a long time, black people weren’t even allowed to vote. It’s important to take advantage of the opportunity we have. If we want to see change, we have to be a part of that change,” she explained.

Increasing voter engagement in the student population

Dawson's primary duty as part of the CSATF is the same as her peers at other colleges and universities: Increasing voter engagement in the student population.

“We can spread the word on campus and in the community about voting and voter education. It really starts with the College. We’ve talked about voting being a priority during orientation – you have to engage in elections because it impacts you and generations to come,” said Dawson. “We also talked about getting more professors involved – particularly history and political science professors – and making it a requirement to have their students attend events when politicians come to campus.”

Dawson spoke fondly about meeting Benson.

“She’s so friendly, very kind. The first CSATF meeting was at Lansing Community College. She was there. I found her to be very personable; she gave us all a warm welcome and took a photo with everyone. She asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, the school we represent, and our reason for joining the task force,” recalled Dawson.

Joining Black Male & QUEENS Focus Group

It was Dr. Kalvin Harvell, HFC sociology professor and faculty advisor of the Black Male & QUEENS Focus Group, who encouraged Dawson to apply for the CSATF. She applied at the last minute – the very last minute – due to her heavy course load, her job as a pharmacy technician, and her responsibilities to her 11-year-old son.

“Surprisingly, I got an email saying I was accepted,” said Dawson.

According to Dawson, fellow HFC student Azalea Hill, a classmate in her anatomy class, introduced her to HFC faculty member Chardin Claybourne, the Focus Group faculty co-advisor. At the first meeting she attended, Harvell gave a lecture about Jim Crow laws, which drew her in.

“I’ve found a great bond with the Focus Group. I do a lot with them,” said Dawson. “Even though I had a heavy workload, I knew I had to get involved.”

“Demitria exemplifies the term QUEENS – Quintessential, Unique, Essence of Ebony, Necessary Sisters. Her work ethic is second to none,” said Harvell. “Demitria calls success into existence through her deliberate action of planning her work and working her plan. May our ancestors be pleased with her.”

Attending the Black, Brown, and College Bound Conference

The high point of Dawson’s time with the Focus Group was attending the Black, Brown, and College Bound Conference last spring in Florida.

“They talked about the struggles black and minority students face going to college,” said Dawson. “I learned a lot about myself there. I feel accomplished and proud to be able to work, attend school, and support my son while following my dreams. It’s been a long process, but I’m finally on the right track. I learned a lot about self-care, about taking time out to take care of yourself, your wants, and your needs. You always have to make time for yourself, no matter how busy you are.”

HFC President Russell Kavalhuna attended the BBCBC, alongside Harvell and Claybourne.

“President Kavalhuna is concerned and involved in the impact minorities have on our campus. He’s a good president who makes his presence known. He’s reachable,” said Dawson.

HFC feels like home

Although she completed coursework at Eastern Michigan University and Macomb Community College, Dawson feels HFC is a better fit for her.

“It has a top-notch nursing program, which was what attracted me in the first place,” she said.

“It’s been a great year for me here. Last semester, I made the dean’s list. Being part of the Focus Group makes me feel at home; it has connected me to many resources. I know every resource available to me on campus. We have a president who’s visible on campus and communicates with students. He stops by our classes and asks us how he can help make our experience at HFC better. He’s concerned, he listens, and wants to be part of student success.”

Claybourne and Dr. Gregory Karapetian, HFC biology professor, spoke highly of Dawson.

“Demitria is a hardworking, ambitious individual. She has the drive educators desire to see in their students,” said Karapetian.

Added Claybourne: “Demitria shines and has continued to blossom as I’ve gotten to know her. She works hard at using the campus resources, including the Learning Lab, the Black Male & QUEENS Focus Group, and taking advantage of many extracurricular activities and opportunities. She is an example of the best and brightest students HFC has to offer!”