NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University alumnus Demitri M. Hill has been selected as the 2020 Southwest Association of Student Assistance Programs (SWASAP) TRIO Achiever Awardee for Louisiana. Each year, SWASAP recognizes one TRIO alumnus from each state who has made significant civic, community or professional contributions and show that participation in the TRIO programs had a significant impact on the candidate.
Hill will be recognized at the SWASAP virtual conference Nov. 11. The conference will take place from 1-2 p.m. when Hill will give a short speech on how the TRIO program impacted his life.
Hill, 25, uses a Nelson Mandela quote as one of his life mottos: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Hill has been a biology teacher at Mansfield High School since 2018. He graduated from Mansfield High in 2013 and enrolled at NSU where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology n 2017. As an undergraduate, Hill worked as a supplemental instruction leader, a job similar to a tutor, except students attend the classes they tutor and work closely with the instructor so that tutorial sessions are relevant to the material covered. He also landed two prestigious research assistant positions at UMass Boston in 2015 and McGovern Medical School in Houston in 2016.
He is currently working toward a Master of Arts in Teaching through NSU’s Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development and plans to pursue a doctorate in education policy and leadership.
For the last two years, Hill has served as the Mansfield High Beta Club sponsor and has been recognized by the National Beta Club organization for his beneficence. He was awarded the National Beta Club Educator of Distinction Award for two consecutive years and his school has been recognized as a National Beta Club School of Distinction for two consecutive years.
During the 2019-2020 school year, he was hand-selected by the Desoto Parish School Superintendent to sit on the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council and has been an active member of the Louisiana Science Teacher Association since 2018.
Hill is also a current TRIO Upward Bound Desoto-Red River staff member, serving as the program’s ACT prep instructor. Upward Bound is one of eight TRIO programs, which are funded by the U.S. Department of Education and targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs. He attributes an incalculable portion of his success as both a student and a teacher to the TRIO Upward Bound Program which helped to cultivate in him a value system that thoroughly prepared him for the volatility of post-secondary schooling and the real world.
Hill said that joining the TRIO Upward Bound Program in high school changed the trajectory of his life.
“As a young Black man who grew up in a low-income community, I knew firsthand just how rare of an occurrence opportunity could be,” Hill said. “Without opportunities to see more and be more, it was hard for me to visualize myself ever doing so. Under the direction of Ms. Charlellia James, the TRIO Upward Bound Desoto-Red River program gave me a sense of possibility and purpose by supplying me with invaluable opportunities. It was that newfound possibility and purpose that invigorated me to seek higher education and then continue on to become an educator.”
As an educator, Hill said that his experience in the TRIO Upward Bound Program impacts the way he interacts with students every day.
“The program showed me the importance of representation and how pivotal it is for students to see real life examples of success in people who share a similar racial/ethnic/cultural identity,” he said. “I returned to my alma mater to teach because there are students like me there that feel like their current positions preclude them from going to college and having big dreams. I’m a living witness that they don’t, and with the right attitude, they won’t.”
Hill believes that the confluence of his experience in the TRIO Upward Bound Program and his membership in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. placed him in a position to positively influence young Black men to seek a collegiate education. His experience also encourages him to continually carve out opportunities for students by organizing service projects and fundraisers, offering tutoring services, planning college tours, recommending students for scholarships and academic awards and orchestrating leadership opportunities.
“The TRIO Upward Bound Program has even helped to shape the way I deliver daily instruction,” he said. “Much like the personalized experience of the program, I value my students as unique learners and take into consideration their individual learning needs as I prepare them for a valiant journey into their futures.”