Senior Britney Augustin made a place of her own at Lees-McRae

After moving to Banner Elk from Florida for college, senior Britney Augustin experienced a bit of culture shock. She says the transition from flat and blue to mountainous and green took some getting used to, but by creating a space for herself at Lees-McRae she has made memories and learned lessons that will last a lifetime.

Throughout her four years Augustin has been very involved on campus. The Business Administration major with a Communication Arts and Design minor has also competed on the track and field team and been a part of the cheerleading squad.

“I was on the Dean’s Council my sophomore year—that was a club for the business students—I was in the international student club, and I was a tutor for a little bit. Track and field was my biggest priority, but I was also a cheerleader up until recently,” Augustin said. “I have also attended a lot of networking events. All that on top of working at a local restaurant and juggling classes.”

Through all this Augustin said it has been imperative that she develops good time-management and task-prioritization skills. Of all these clubs, one that has been the most impactful for Augustin is W.O.K.E. The acronym stands for Wearing Our Culture Eminently and represents the club’s goal to empower, educate, and create community among African American students on campus.

For Augustin, W.O.K.E. was a big part of finding her place at Lees-McRae and creating a space for other African American students who were going through similar struggles. Augustin took over the leadership of W.O.K.E. after the club’s founder, Cristina Long, transferred, but Augustin had her hesitancies about taking on another responsibility at first.

“Cristina wanted an environment for the minorities on campus to come together and have a safe space because there aren’t many of us on campus. She wanted us to have that outlet,” Augustin said. “After she left, the student development office asked me to do it. At first, I wasn’t going to because I already had an extensive list of responsibilities, but then I lost a teammate the first week of school because she said she had faced discrimination from students, administration, and staff. She felt very uncomfortable, and that was heartbreaking to me, so that was the push to accept the offer to run the club.”

Augustin said that W.O.K.E. has truly provided an outlet to discuss the challenges African American students experience at a school where they represent a small fraction of the total population. It has provided a sense of community for students across campus who she said were previously divided by sports teams and friend groups.

“I feel like the club has encouraged people to branch out, and I do see people talking to people that they wouldn’t normally talk to and meeting people that they might not otherwise know,” Augustin said. “The club creates a space where we can voice our concerns and talk about current issues. We can talk about how those things affect us mentally and physically, and how we go about our day because of them.”

Augustin said her time at Lees-McRae has prepared her for post-grad life, and the senior has already landed a job in Atlanta working in sales and marketing for JLC. While her major has prepared her for this work, Augustin also hopes to make use of her art-focused minor and become involved with Atlanta’s thriving art scene.

After settling back into city life, she says she hopes to get a studio where she can focus on creating art in her free time and make use of her business prowess to network with other artists and galleries in the area.

“I like acrylic or oil painting and I typically work on canvas or wood,” Augustin said. “I notice a pattern in my work of focusing on the environment, nature, wildlife, animals, and my surroundings. The story behind that is we need to reconnect with that side of ourselves and not be distracted by technology.”

After graduation she hopes to spend some time reconnecting with that side of herself, spending more time on self-care, and continuing the path of growth and self-discovery that Lees-McRae set her on.

“I’ll never forget all the people I’ve met here; mostly my track team and the relationships I’ve been able to build with my teammates, but also how the administration has such a personal connection with the students and tries to help them grow and put their best foot forward, and be the best person they can be,” Augustin said. “My time here has let me know who I am as a person and helped me figure out my strengths and my weaknesses.”

By Maya JarrellMay 02, 2022
AcademicsCampus Life