First-generation college graduate Tra’Keyvion Hale talks path to earning a bachelor’s degree

For decades, the sitcom “A Different World” has given Black youth a peek into the world of HBCUs and their rich culture. The show was introduced to Tra’Keyvion Hale when he was a child, and it exposed him to the excellent opportunities that college affords.

“‘A Different World’ was one of my favorite shows growing up,” said Hale. “I was inspired seeing young Black people achieve goals that looked unattainable when I was a child.”

This then-new world of possibilities motivated Hale to accomplish a goal that no one in his family had done before; earn a college degree. Hale is days away from receiving a bachelor’s degree in English during Alcorn State University’s 2022 Spring Commencement.

Becoming a first-generation college graduate sets a significant precedent for Hale’s family. He’s proud to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to those following his blueprint.

“Being the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree is like starting a family legacy. Because of the challenges I endured, those in my family who come after me won’t have to face these challenges without help.”

Leading the way came with hurdles that Hale had to overcome. A precocious kid, Hale reached out to college-educated individuals in his community to help guide him through the application process.

“I was confused as my senior year of high school approached. I had no clue how to complete the FAFSA, scholarship applications, or look for national opportunities, even though I was a straight-A student. I had to go out and enlist the help of wise counsel, or what I refer to as my village. I was supported by many people in my community and encouraged to stick through it, even when navigating higher education got confusing.”

Despite not having college degrees, Hale’s family played a significant role in pushing him to achieve what they didn’t.

“Education was always instilled in me. My family used the challenges they faced to inspire me to do better than they were allowed to do. Going to college was the automatic choice because I knew that my family wanted me to do more with myself. My grandmother was a stickler for reading and history, especially Black History. She also ensured that I was involved in church, which nurtured my speaking skills.”

The road to finding a college began, and Hale’s visit to Alcorn solidified his choice. He was impressed with the University’s spirit and family atmosphere.

“I attended my first Alcorn homecoming and then High School Day. I was sold! No other school felt like home more than Alcorn.”

The last four years at Alcorn have brought out the best in Hale. He appreciates the University for enhancing his work ethic.

“Attending Alcorn made me a self-starter. Alcorn teaches you that the opportunities are out there, and it prepares you to go after them. Nothing is handed to you here. You must earn every achievement, honor, and milestone. If you want something, you have to work for it.”

Hale’s work ethic has led to numerous accomplishments that include being named a 2021 Ronald E. McNair Scholar and Research Cohort and a 2019 Discover Law Scholar. He’s also held internships with the Mississippi House of Representatives, Goldman Sachs, and Ally.

Seizing these moments are blessings for Hale.

“I’m motivated to take advantage of great opportunities. I’ve been blessed to accomplish so much, and many people from my circumstances don’t make it this far. I don’t take my blessings for granted, and I intend to make sure I’m utilizing the gifts I was given. My greatest motivation is accomplishing goals and inspiring others to look beyond their circumstances and create the life they want.”

All of the lessons and hard work have paid off for Hale, as he accepted a full-time position in JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s Human Resources Analyst Development Program as a university recruiter in Dallas. He can now uplift other bright students just like other professionals did for him.

“It feels wonderful to start my career at such a reputable company. Getting such a big opportunity is humbling. I’m super excited to get to work. Working at a Fortune 500 company is a monumental achievement. I’m still shocked that I have this opportunity, but I’m looking forward to working on University recruiting because I will expose the best college students to great opportunities just like others did for me.”

Hale will continue to pursue his education at the University of Alabama. He will be a student in the school’s higher education administration Program. His goal is to give back to provide HBCU students with opportunities on a “larger scale.”

The finish line at Alcorn is near for Hale. He’s grateful for all of the help and advice of those who helped him get to this part of his journey.

“Graduating from Alcorn feels like a ‘Thank you’ to everyone who sacrificed for me to have a better life by helping me in any way possible. I feel like I’ve broken a generational curse, and now, there’s a legacy to keep that I’ve built. I’m humbled and honored to be the first, and I won’t be the last. I hope my journey inspires them to go beyond what they think is possible and shoot for the stars no matter how difficult it may seem.”