ROTC changed Hampton U. senior’s social status

By Alyssa Alford      

“I’m ready to go.” Michael Turner said. “[The morning of Convocation] I’m going to wake up and eat Raisin Bran.”

Turner, who will be a participant in a milestone event on Sunday, had not picked up his required graduation cap and gown.

Turner, a print journalism major from Virginia Beach will be participating in Hampton University’s Opening Convocation. The event, held on Sunday Sept. 27 in Ogden Hall, inducts senior class students as the 2010 graduating class.          

Despite the lack of enthusiasm, Turner said he does appreciate his experience at school. It was an anticipated journey.

Turner chose Hampton University because of its importance to his life.

“My family has history here,” explained the graduating student. “My sister and parents graduated from here. My father taught here.”

The first year on Hampton University’s campus presented obstacles to Turner. He did not know what to expect at the university. In addition to his anxieties towards impressing his family and tackling a college curriculum, the freshman had to adjust to the social life different from high school.

“I didn’t enjoy my freshman year,” Turner said. “I feared not fitting in and enjoying myself.”

Initially, Turner he did not feel at home at his “Home by the Sea.” It was not until he enrolled in the campus Reserve Officers Training Core during his freshman year that he started to feel as though he belonged.

ROTC is a program that trains students for the military service while they are in school. After graduation, they must honor their commitment of serving in respected fields.

Both of Turner’s parents were ROTC cadets. Family legacy and the desire to find companionship drew the young scholar to enter the program’s Army division.

“I wanted to feel like part of something bigger, Turner said. “[ROTC] It’s like a frat without the title.”

Joining ROTC has drastically changed his social status and gave him confidence to pursue other students for friendship.

Tiffany Tompkins is one of Turner’s good friends and fellow ROTC Army member. Tompkins knows her favorite memory of her and her friend off the top of her head: When they took a trip together to the local McDonald’s.

“We stayed there for hours and talked about bodily functions and the birds and the bees,” the senior business major from Newport News recalled. This simple trip to a fast-food restaurant made plain that Turner had evolved into a self-assured young man who could bring entertainment to any situation.

Jessica Wilkins, a senior psychology major from Seoul, Korea, also met Turner through ROTC. For them, though, the road to friendship was bumpy and the duo often pushed each other off course.

“We didn’t see eye to eye when in uniform,” Wilkins said. “But he doesn’t hold that [against] you. He’s a good guy.” When asked about Turner as a student, she laughed and said, “ He is intelligent. But his punctuality is nowhere near his intelligence.”

Transitioning from being an unpopular freshman to a social butterfly preparing to graduate is one of the most important chapters in Turner’s life, almost more than the prospect of Convocation.

 “I feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “I understand people [now]. I appreciate different lifestyles more than before.”

Sept. 27 is the official first day of acknowledgement that students are graduating seniors.

Leaving the university, Turner admitted that he will miss being in an environment that shows his fellow African-Americans succeeding and holding important positions in society.

But will Turner miss Hampton University?

“No,” he said, “I’m ready to go.”