First year, first gen and the weight of the world

First year, first gen and the weight of the world

Shakur Cistrunk started college last semester with high expectations for himself. Being a first-generation college student, he feels “the weight of the world” to achieve. 

Cistrunk grew up in Akron, Ohio with five siblings. Throughout his life, he found his community through music.

He learned to play the trumpet in fifth grade. He first found a passion for the instrument when he discovered jazz.

“Originally when I first started to play the trumpet, I really didn’t like it. It just wasn’t fun at all,” Cistrunk said. “There’s nothing wrong with the typical style of classical music, but it just didn’t really interest me. And then I found jazz.” 

Cistrunk on the staircase in the Business Administration Building, the home of most of his classes for his major. He will take classes at the new Crawford Hall upon its completion.

Cistrunk arrived at his high school an hour early to participate in the jazz band. He also became drum major of the Firestone High School marching band. 

“I was in band in high school, I even became a drum major, and really just found a love for, not necessarily only the trumpet, but for band and everything that comes with it,” he said. 

When he came to Kent State, he knew he wanted to be involved in music somehow. 

Along with a computer information systems major, Cistrunk declared a jazz minor. He joined the marching band, he joined the university band and he joined the pep band.

“The band program [is] definitely my community,” he said. “Everybody being themselves and showing their passion for music, because that’s my passion, it’s really nice to connect on that.”

Cistrunk has struggled the most with making friends during his first year in college. As a naturally shy person, he finds it difficult to meet new people. 

Cistrunk sits in an empty classroom. He hopes to take more classes related to cybersecurity in the future.

His passion for music has helped him find his community at Kent State, but he still occasionally feels uneasy on campus.

Cistrunk said the recent attacks on the Black community in the form of racist graffiti on campus have been disheartening for him, and he wishes the administration would take action to prevent these attacks.

“I’m going to be honest, [Kent] doesn’t really feel like home to me,” he said. “There’s definitely been a lot of struggles.”

Within the last few weeks, two instances of racist graffiti have appeared on campus in Bowman Hall and Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Despite this, he said he felt an instant warmth and acceptance when walking into Oscar Ritchie Hall for the first time.

Cistrunk poses near artwork at Oscar Ritchie Hall. The building is home to the Department of Africana Studies and is seen as a cultural center, particularly for African American students. 

With his major in Computer Information Systems, Cistrunk hopes to go into Cybersecurity one day. He wants to work at a nonprofit organization that supports the community. 

Above all, Cistrunk wants to continue playing music and making a positive impact on the world. 

“[I plan on] continuing my passion on the side of my main thing, which hopefully means more,” he said. “I actually want to make a difference.” 

His ultimate goal for his time at Kent is to graduate. He finds the task daunting as a first-generation college student, but he is confident he will make it. 

“I’m going to continue to push through whatever comes my way,” he said. 

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