Counting his blessings

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Emari McClellan ’20 has never been short on ambition.

“College was something that I planned for since I was 2 years old,” he says. “It was inevitable. It was going to happen. My mom always believed that something was bright in my future, so nothing was going to stop me from getting there.”

And he made it happen. McClellan, of Altadena, Calif., is now at the U of R—which he chose due to the physical beauty of its main campus and the warmth of its tight-knit community—where he plays middle linebacker.

He plans to use his business administration degree to open an inner-city insurance company to help provide coverage to low-income families. He’d ultimately like to earn a master’s degree at U of R, “and hopefully coach or teach here someday,” he says.

His aspirations are being aided by the Cummings Endowed Scholarship, created for U of R students “who make meaningful contributions to better human relationships and world understanding.” When it comes to the cost of college, he also has an abiding commitment to his faith.

“My mom and I always say that God finds a way to bless His children, and that’s just what we believe in,” he says. “We pray on it always, and we’ve always found a way.

“Having the Cummings Scholarship is something that I see as a blessing, and I’m thankful for it and appreciative of it,” he adds. “I’m grateful that there are people in the world who believe in the dream that I’m trying to pursue.”

The assistance is critical in the face of another challenge: McClellan’s single-parent mother is battling stage 2 thyroid cancer. The illness caused her to drop her third job, curtailing the income she uses to support herself and her only child.

To help pay for college, McClellan is enrolled in work-study as an intern for Dudes Understanding Diversity and Ending Stereotypes (DUDES), a program featured in the Los Angeles Times last year that encourages dialogue through workshops, speaker series, and social activities.

Giving to his community has always been part of McClellan’s character. He has volunteered with his church and at the convalescent home where his mother is a medical records director. Like Duvall, McClellan is an alumnus of the Summer Bridge program, and he mentors incoming first-generation students.

“Going through the program as a mentor was eye-opening for me because I got to see from a different perspective how these freshmen are tackling their personal struggles and how they’re adapting to college life as the first person in their family to go to college,” he says. “Just hearing their stories, and being able to be there to guide them, was a great experience for me.”

McClellan’s influence doesn’t stop there. He speaks “daily” to students at his former high school, La Salle High School in Pasadena (where he was a three-year varsity captain on the football team), and “I give them tools.” His efforts also play closer to home.

“One person I try to encourage is my little cousin,” McClellan says. “He’s 10 years old and just went into the sixth grade. He’s probably one of the best artists that I’ve seen. He has a tough life, but I’m going to convince him to go to college because he can be one of the biggest graphic designers or game designers around. I try my best to do what I can to help him out.”

Read more about U of R’s first-generation students and programs.

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