UNCF EMT Student Spotlight: Talaya Quinn

"I wanted to show my sisters and younger cousins that they could become more and achieve anything they wanted."

Talaya Quinn, a recent high school graduate, will soon enter Wilberforce University [a UNCF-member institution], where she plans to major in Social Work. Talaya graduated from Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, MN, in the top 15-percent of her class. UNCF talked to her about the importance of continuing her education and what being a UNCF Scholar means to her.

UNCF: What does it mean to be a UNCF Empower Me Tour (EMT) Target Scholar?

Talaya Quinn: This honor allowed me to stay self-motivated as a leader within my family and class. It provided me a focus on impacting the women around me and within my family.  

UNCF: Talaya, can you share your background with us?

TQ: I was born on the Southside of Chicago, IL; I am from a generation of high school single mothers. My mom was a high school-aged single mother, my grandmother was a high school-aged single mother, and my aunts were all high school-aged single mothers. None of these women in my life have more than a GED. Growing up, we moved out of the Southside of Chicago when I was eight years old because of the heightened violence in the community. There were times when we lived in shelters because of the financial struggles my mother faced as a single mom of four. I always felt very different than my other friends because I knew I was less privileged. However, my mother always instilled love and learning in my house, which became my foundation in designing my story.  I wanted to show my sisters and younger cousins that they could become more and achieve anything they wanted. We ultimately moved to Minnesota because my mom felt the educational opportunities were better for me in Minneapolis. I had plenty of possibilities once we moved across state lines, which gave me more time to pursue my passions and where I found my love for Social Work.

UNCF: You found a passion for social work at a young age. Were there situations or roadblocks you had to confront? How did you work around them?

TQ:  Having access to opportunity is what sets many individuals apart. Growing up in my community and facing the challenges we faced, the importance of learning was necessary.  I had a teacher—Ms. Johnson—who was a fantastic listener and provided great support to each of her students. This teacher was also a school-based Social Worker, whose role was to support and uplift students to be strong and stay motivated. Once we talked in depth, Social Work was something that peaked my interest as a career path.

I am an extremely emotional person. School was essential for my success. With an amazing teacher pushing me forward, and a mother whose only option for us was to do better, I invested in myself. As the first person in my family to go to college, I want to impact the lives of my family members, make them proud, and bridge that gap for the women in my family to follow in my success.

UNCF: What challenges do you anticipate in your first year of college? How you plan to address them?

TQ:  I am extremely excited and don’t know what to expect. However, I am very open minded. I think my challenge will be the transition in a new area outside of Minneapolis. I am looking forward to the opportunities and exposure that college will offer me. I am a very patient and understanding person,  so anything thrown my way using these skills, I should be ok! I look forward to learning balance and growing intellectually.