UNI student honored for community impact


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UNI student Jerrell Bates has been commended by the Newman Civic Fellowship for his leadership and impact on his community.


For Jerell Bates, a junior at UNI studying psychology, his acceptance as a Newman Civic Fellow is an honor.

The Newman Civic Fellowship supports students who show drive to impact their communities for the better. The yearlong program centers around professional development opportunities to prepare students to make policy or social changes in the future.

On their website, the Newman Civic Fellowship shares that they select “community-committed students who are changemakers and public problem-solvers.”

Bates feels he represents these qualities.

“I would like to make a career out of public problem-solving,” he said.

Chiquita Loveless, Coordinator for UNI’s Military and Veteran Student Services, nominated Bates to become part of the fellowship. That nomination moved up to President Mark Nook, who selected him.

Bates is looking forward to the networking opportunities the fellowship will provide. He said meeting other students will give him the chance to learn how they were nominated and help him learn their perspectives.

“The leadership opportunities that will come from it, and then the experience that I will get from it as well, I will plan to use in the future as I progress through my career,” Bates said.

Bates’ mentor in the Newman Civic Fellowship is Yakira Sanders, who used to work at UNI as a success coach and director of diversity. Bates met Sanders while she was a pathfinder with the UNI Jump Start program.

The program’s page shares, “Jump Start is an extended orientation program designed to facilitate the successful transition of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as students who have participated in AVID and TRIO programs (such as Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search).”

Sanders became Bates’ mentor during his freshman year through the Multicultural Mentoring Program for Student Success, which is run through the Center for Multicultural Education. Bates feels she’s played a large role in preparing him to become a part of the Newman Civic Fellowship.

“When I first got to UNI, I was probably the most introverted person you’ve ever met,” Bates said. “(Sanders)  opened me up to a lot of opportunities, a lot of different student organizations. Just doing that got me out of my shell, which led to me wanting to be more of a leader once I met more people and got exposed to those different organizations and opportunities.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship focuses on public problem solving. One particular issue of great importance to Bates is mental health.

As a psychology major, he has seen through research and classes how people struggle with mental health issues, which has inspired him to want to be a mental health advocate. UNI programs like Mental Health Ally Training and QPR Suicide Prevention Training have also helped Bates gather skills that he feels will be useful in his future career.

Bates said that a lack of funding, resources and access to insurance all contribute to the current mental health crisis. He wants to help find solutions to these problems and end the stigma surrounding mental health by making resources more widely available and educating people that it’s okay to reach out for help if they need it.

Making a change on a smaller, personal scale is equally significant to him. Bates expresses to the people in his life that he’s a friend, ally and resource to use if they’re struggling mentally.

“Mental health is very important,” Bates said. “It’s just as important as your physical health. I believe you should treat it that way.”

Along with mental health, Bates is passionate about the on-campus organizations he’s part of. He’s the president of Ethnic Student Promoters, a student organization that works with admissions to recruit students from multicultural, diverse backgrounds.

He’s also a member of the Black Student Union, where he volunteers for the organization’s events as much as he can during Black History Month. One notable event he helped with was presenting the life of a Black individual’s life throughout America’s history, including slavery, the Jim Crow era and modern times.

Being a member of the Black Student Union has provided Bates with the valuable opportunity to teach others.

“I feel like education can help solve a lot of the problems that we have,” he said.

For students hoping to join the Newman Civic Fellowship in the future, Bates encourages them to pursue their passions. He feels this is what helped him become a part of the organization.

“If you have a passion, follow it,” Bates said. “If you have the opportunity to make a difference, do it.”