“Opportunity doesn’t knock twice.”

Those words are boldly scripted onto a page in Joequise Wright’s journal – a notebook the senior, who is double majoring in biology and secondary education, totes nearly everywhere he goes. The words offer advice that he takes to heart. And they also offer insight into why Wright is so much more than just a student. In fact, he’s a peer facilitator, a resident assistant, a fraternity brother, a part-time dental assistant and head student leader of the College’s SPECTRA Program.

“I love being busy,” Wright explains. “And I love learning. It’s actually my No. 1 strength.”

A graduate of a small rural high school about an hour’s drive north of Charleston, Wright is a first generation college student who’s had to learn the ropes of academic life entirely on his own.

Joequise Wright leads a team meeting of peer facilitators at the Center for Excellence in Peer Education. (Photos by Heather Moran)

“My grandparents raised me since I was 11,” he says. “They cared, but they also allowed me to learn for myself. They let me make my own mistakes. Now, I’m grateful because that made me more resilient and independent. Whatever life throws at me, I’m able to throw it back.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Wright has big plans for his future. After graduating next spring, he intends to teach high school biology, but that will just be for a few years. Afterward, he hopes to get a master’s degree in biomedical science. And after that, he’ll either return to teaching high school or continue his education by enrolling in dental school.

To date, the constant in Wright’s life has been his passion for helping others succeed.

“I really enjoy educating others,” he offers. “And I really enjoy seeing them succeed. That’s why I became a peer facilitator, and an RA and the student leader for SPECTRA. I’ve seen students come and go, and my challenge is to see if I can help them make it to the next year. For me, that’s personally satisfying, but it also offers me experience for my career in education and gives me insight into classroom management and what it takes to be in front of a group of students that I meet for the first time.”

Wright doesn’t take those responsibilities lightly. He recalls a particularly poignant experience when one student confessed to having suicidal thoughts.

“Now, I don’t have any background as a counselor,” Wright says, “but I handled that as capably as I could, with encouragement, with respect and love. And I was able to walk with that student to the Counseling Center, and I sat with them and waited. Fortunately, we cleared everything up, but that moment really stuck with me because this student chose to come to me. They could have gone to anyone else, but they came to me because of the trust we had built. They had the courage to say, ‘Hey Joe, I’m going through some family issues.’ And I could have simply referred them somewhere, but I don’t want anyone going through that alone. Life is too short to be dwelling on such difficult things. So I was like ‘OK, let’s go and see what we can do about this.’”

On the whole, Wright says the experiences he’s had in his many roles at the College have offered him important training in leadership and how to establish a solid rapport with people.

“There’s no ceiling to learning leadership,” he says. “You can always grow in that capacity. I’m really thankful that I have these roles. Not every student gets to see the good side or the challenges. I’m really appreciative of the challenges because each one that I encounter helps me become a better manager, leader, problem solver, and they’ll help me after I graduate.”

And that’s an opportunity no one should turn down.