College of Education Alumna Andrea Duhon Is Making Marginalized Students Feel Seen and Heard by Giving Back
Andrea Duhon never felt seen in the classroom and was constantly feeling like she had to prove herself. Today, she helps to make sure students find value in themselves in these same spaces.
Duhon, who is a 2005 alumna of the NC State College of Sciences and the College of Education, is the co-founder and co-chair of the NC State Latinx Alumni Network. She is also an active Alumni Association Board of Directors Member and communications chair.
“I have always believed that giving back is a responsibility,” Duhon said. “I am who I am because someone was willing to pave the way.”
Duhon said so many people made space for her, which catapulted her involvement in organizations that share her goals and values.
“This year, we inaugurated the Latinx Alumni Weekend Reunion and we are working endlessly to achieve our endowment goal for the scholarship,” she said. “My goal is to use my experiences to help those who come after me achieve the same and more.”
Duhon came to the United States when she was nine years old and didn’t always speak English. She said her lack of knowledge in English was equated with her ability to learn.
“I want people to feel seen in the classroom, to know that they are cared about… I want them to see themselves as a mathematician, as a scientist, as an engineer,” Duhon said. “The only way they can see that is by it being modeled by those they relate to and by finding themselves in the story.”
Duhon also loves to teach and connect with people. She worked as an assistant professor of mathematics at Marshall University for eight years and will begin a new role as visiting professor of mathematics at Davidson College this summer.
“I hope to create a chain of difference makers who work endlessly to help others create change,” she said.
Duhon often volunteers to work with women and historically marginalized groups in STEM and with the Chris Duhon Stand Tall Foundation to help create and sustain programs that focus on educational equity, recreation and scholarship.
“Community is how I got through NC State and creating that same feeling of community for every student that comes through the university is critical to their experience and their continuing success while they are navigating uncharted waters,” Duhon said.
Duhon is also the founder and director of a camp called Triple Threat, a dance, step and cheer camp that is free of charge to all.
“The idea behind the camp is to provide exposure to the arts for kids 5-16 in low income areas,” she said. “The step portion of the program works in conjunction with the Art of Stepping Foundation, where we teach step through mathematical formulas.”
The camp has previously been held in Slidell, Louisiana, Orlando, Florida, Huntington, West Virginia, Charlotte, North Carolina, Los Angeles, California, and Bogota, Colombia.
In the many roles that Duhon holds, giving back is always at the core.
“It is our responsibility, as part of those communities, to create systems of change so that their future looks different than it has previously,” she said.
Duhon challenges all educators to look at the practices that are currently in place and think about ways that they can be restructured to give accessibility to all students, regardless of their background or their socio-economic status.
“If we begin the change within our own communities and hold ourselves responsible for change, I believe it will spread beyond just our communities and create systemic change,” she said.
Her advice to educators looking to learn more about giving back is to first find out where their passion is.
“Remember why you started in this career,” Duhon said. “We are often too focused on what is needed in certain systems of education, when maybe what is needed is you.”
This story was written by Jayla Moody.