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Graduate accepted into Univ. of Memphis wants to make a difference for troubled youth

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Ariel Wade, a native of Tennessee, plans to continue her education at the University of Memphis. Wade plans to help troubled youth find their footing on the right path. (Photo special to JSU)

Ariel Wade, a native of Tennessee, is pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Memphis. Wade plans to help troubled youth find their footing in the world. (Photo special to JSU)

Wade, a spring criminal justice graduate, said she wants to spend her life helping misguided juveniles get back on track. “I want to show them that they can be successful no matter their history. You know, no matter what they’ve done in the past,” explained the Tennessee native.

In March, Wade learned she was accepted into two graduate programs at the University of Memphis – clinical rehabilitation counseling and criminology and criminal justice. However, Wade was swayed to choose the latter since it came with a two-year graduate assistantship to help cover tuition.

“I was very excited. It was great news, especially during this time we’re in right now with the whole COVID-19 situation. So, I was excited,” said the honor student, who holds a 3.9 GPA.

Wade shared that her professional motivation stems from her love of children. Aside from her first job as a summer camp counselor, she frequently volunteered at Jackson State’s Kids Kollege housed inside the College of Education and Human Development.

Redirecting troubled youth takes support, Wade said, combined with resources and steady guidance to help adolescents achieve their goals.

“But, I also feel like they need the proper tools. Children who find themselves in the juvenile correction system are not able to access the same opportunities that others have,” she rationalized. “I feel we need to give children more access to opportunities like tutoring. We need to really educate and show them that they can make a living through means other than criminal activity.”

Perhaps Wade is referring to opportunities she experienced. As a band member at Memphis Central High School, her band director, Ollie Liddell, a JSU alum, took students on a field trip to Jackson State. Liddell is the son of Dr. Lewis Liddell, Sr., who led the Sonic Boom for 17 years, retiring in 2009. He returned for a brief stint as interim in 2011.

“I fell in love with the campus. I just felt like it was very inviting. All of the people were very nice and warm. The campus was beautiful,” said Wade, who later applied and received a full scholarship.

If she has learned anything during her four years as a Tiger, Wade said it would be “life skills.” She then praised her professors for preparing her for the workforce and educating her on the depth of fields that a criminal justice career offers.

“They also taught us a lot about teamwork and effort. I really feel like JSU is a true community,” she said

Pointing out mentorship as key to her development, Wade further shared that Dr. Verna Taylor, a criminal justice professor, “inspired me to pursue my dream, wholeheartedly.” She also thanks Johnnie Robinson, instructor of English, for her backing.

“They helped me to discover my strong points and focus on school,” said Wade, who admitted that she was disappointed by the postponement of commencement in the wake of COVID-19.

“I was looking forward to making the most of my senior year. But everything happens for a reason, and, you know, everything is going to be okay in the end,” she said. “Even though we’re not having graduation on the day we expected, I’m still getting my degree. That’s the most important thing for me. I’m still going to be awarded my degree.”