KDSL Global recently had an opportunity to connect with author and College Success Coach Jahquan Hawkins. Jahquan now serves as the Dean of Student Services at Oakland Community College’s Auburn Hills campus. He believes in empowering the community by empowering others.
What inspired you to focus on higher education?
I’m a product of Detroit Public Schools. I was a first-generation college student who lost two academic scholarships and almost became a casualty of Academic Suspension during my freshman year at Wayne State University. The sacrifices my parents made to ensure that I received a quality education motivated me to right the ship even though I struggled initially. I was also extremely blessed to have well-intentioned mentors in my life who saw potential in me and consistently invested in my personal and academic success.
Ultimately that experience was the foundation to my career in higher education. I relish the opportunity to provide the support to this generation of students that so many provided for me when I was finding my way as an undergraduate. My college journey was life-altering and has opened doors I never imagined I’d be able to enter. I understand that college isn’t for everyone, but in many ways, it was invaluable to me.
Tell us about your newest book.
Donovan’s College Adventure was inspired by the energy and imagination of our “junior citizens.” I published my first book, Finding My Way, three years ago, and that journey landed me in a multitude of spaces. I would frequently participate in book fairs that were family oriented and people were bringing children of all ages. Finding My Way was geared toward college-bound high school students and current college students. I quickly realized that I didn’t have a book which spoke to the elementary grade audience. Being the father of a 6-year-old, I’m constantly reading children’s books but I hadn’t read a book that speaks to the journey that connects kids to their career aspirations.
Donovan’s College Adventure introduces kids to the higher education environment through the lens of 5-year-old Donovan Mack. Donovan is curious, outgoing, and loves to learn. It’s a fun story that will hopefully help kids understand that attending college is a dynamic experience. You learn just as much outside of the classroom as you do inside the classroom. My goal is for kids to embrace the experience as a viable pathway to their success.
What can schools and parents do to promote a college going culture?
Early exposure is key. Parents should be consistently talking about career interests with their children, connecting them with opportunities to meet people who work in those areas, and taking them to the spaces that ultimately will prepare them for their desired career. There are a number of dual enrollment opportunities for students which allow young people to dip their toes in the water before they decide which higher education experience best suits them.
In my ideal world, we would have a much more fluid relationship between secondary and post-secondary institutions. K-12 systems should be in regular conversation with colleges and universities about industry trends, articulation with curriculum and mentoring opportunities. Too often, students enter the higher education environment ill-prepared to adjust to the cultural norms. We must expand upon our partnerships to ensure that this doesn’t happen. The culture will change when we realize that we need each other in order to be viable for the next 100 years.
To learn more about Jahquan’s work visit:
About Jahquan Hawkins
Jahquan Hawkins is a proud husband, father, College Success Coach and native Detroiter. After struggling as a college student himself, Jahquan has experienced a successful career in higher education and now serves as the Dean of Student Services at Oakland Community College’s (OCC) Auburn Hills campus. Jahquan believes in empowering the community by empowering others. In 2011, he and a group of college stakeholders helped establish OCC’s Man Up Program which provides higher education exposure opportunities for young men in Southfield Public Schools. Jahquan is the Co-Director of this dynamic effort which has seen over 300 young men earn transferrable college credit as dual enrollees at the OCC. In 2016, Jahquan published his first book entitled Finding My Way: A Practical Guide to College Success. The text has been adopted by institutions such as Harper Woods Schools, Job Corps, and Wayne State University as a mechanism to help students adjust to the culture of the higher education environment. Most recently, Jahquan was named one of Michigan Chronicle’s 40 under 40 Honorees, joining other community trendsetters in the class of 2018. Jahquan recently published a children’s book entitled Donovan’s College Adventure. This latest release is designed to inspire youth to intentionally pursue their dreams through education. In his spare time, Jahquan volunteers with organizations such as Detroit Kappa League, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and My Brother’s Keeper.