Student leader strives to make a difference for others

Cherizar Crippen pictured at The People's Perk in Greensboro in front of a mural created by The Greensboro Mural Project. The mural depicts Major Griffin-Garvey, Mickey Bradford, Jessie Barber, and Bree Newsome,

Cherizar Crippen pictured at The People’s Perk in Greensboro in front of a mural created by The Greensboro Mural Project. The mural depicts Major Griffin-Garvey, Mickey Bradford, Jessie Barber, and Bree Newsome, “all incredible black women fighting for our rights!” Crippen says. (Photos by Carrie Lilly)

By Tina Firesheets

Anti-social and stuck. Stuck in a rut.

That’s how Cherizar Crippen felt before she enrolled at GTCC.

“I did not think highly of myself. … I was in a real rut wondering how I would spend however many years I had left on this planet,” Crippen says. “Did I want to be this cog in the wheel to go to work just to make money and pay bills and do this over and over?”

Now this GTCC student leader has a different outlook.

“I believe that I am a brilliant person and I believe that I can make a difference for other people, not just myself,” she says. “I’m not restricted by my circumstances.”

She credits the Black Lives Matter movement for helping her identify her life’s purpose: social justice. GTCC is equipping her with the knowledge needed to develop her passion for social justice, Crippen says. She will spend the next six months completing an internship with the Highlander Research and Education Center, while she completes GTCC courses online. Highlander aims to serve as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the southern U.S. And when she graduates, this political science major wants to be a full-time organizer.

A native of Neptune, New Jersey, Crippen came to Greensboro looking for a better quality of life. Her home state was expensive, and there weren’t many employment opportunities, she says. She helped a friend apply to GTCC, then wondered why she didn’t enroll as well.

GTCC was a good fit for an older student, says Crippen, 34. Her goals had been to work her way up in a corporation so that she could earn a good salary. But when she lost her job after eight years, she decided to take a year off for self-reflection.

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says.

Her goals shifted when she joined the Black Lives Matter movement last year.

“It prompted me to want to understand our political system,” she says. “You kind of have to know thy enemy in order to change what’s happening, understand how government works and how laws get passed.”

She now serves as the Communications Chairperson and liaison to the southern network for the Greensboro chapter.

Through GTCC, she also met fellow classmate Lindsay Pendleton, who encouraged her to join the Model United Nations Club. The club examines world issues with diverse groups of students at conferences. This past year, Crippen received the 27th Annual UNCC Model U.N. Conference Outstanding Delegation Award and was recognized for her achievement at GTCC’s Student Excellence Awards Ceremony.

Crippen’s work as a tutor in GTCC’s Center for Academic Engagement also paired her with ESL and Muslim students, which further taught her to communicate and identify with people from many backgrounds. Both experiences have boosted her confidence, enabling her to approach government officials and address large groups.

In the classroom, Crippen says she learned about government structures and political landscapes. She also learned about campaign strategies and how protests are carried out in other countries. She says her world history teacher, Sheri Kahn, welcomed challenging conversation in the classroom.

“She acknowledged global racism and its role in capitalism,” Crippen says.

Crippen, herself, hopes to influence young people by teaching them what she wishes she had learned sooner. She is creating a curricula aimed at teaching social justice activism and community organizing to young people.

“If we started at a much younger age to teach children, they wouldn’t have the biases that they have or wouldn’t grow up feeling downtrodden and powerless,” she says.

Instead, they could “raise a generation that will feel connected to their community and to know their power.”


May 26, 2017