Temmecha Turner helps students discover their spark — and transform their future

Temmecha Turner
Temmecha Turner, ’04, is an Oregon State alumna with years of experience working one-on-one with students and families from historically underserved communities on engagement and advocacy. She joined the Office of Institutional Diversity in October 2022 as director of community diversity relations. She also serves on the leadership council of the Black Alumni and Friends Network for the OSU Alumni Association, focusing on engagement and recruitment.

What do you hope to accomplish as director of community diversity relations?

Through this role, I will develop relationships with our community partners and attend and/or host and sponsor community engagement events like My People’s Market and The Skanner MLK Breakfast. I hope to collaborate with our partners to create culturally responsive programming and opportunities that support our students and families. The goal of this programming is to address the barriers that students from historically underrepresented backgrounds face and provide resources and support that will give them a sense of belonging.

Can you describe your previous work in student advocacy?

I began at an alternative school setting in Portland called Open Campus (formerly known as Open Meadows), where I helped African and African American students navigate through high school, in addition to serving as a liaison between school and home. I conducted home visits and helped students navigate through some of the challenges they were facing. Through Self Enhancement Inc., I also hosted a middle school girls’ group at the César Chávez School to talk about identities, cultural awareness, self-love, self-awareness and more — to help them find their spark. Following that, I worked for Friends of the Children for nine years as a professional mentor, developing strategies to support students early in their academic journeys. This included getting parent concerns to the right place to help with subjects where students were struggling, along with enrichment activities in the community that provided students with a well-rounded learning experience. I also worked as a student engagement coach for Portland Public Schools where I supported building systems for student success and supporting the mental health of students through a racial equity lens. The goal of this program was to increase support and student engagement for historically underserved populations, as well as increase graduation rates.

What would you say contributes most to student success?

By letting them know the definition of success starts with tapping into their own greatness rather than meeting someone else’s milestone or timeline, they become more empowered and confident. It’s never too late to learn, and it’s never too late to accomplish a goal. Sometimes it just takes a little more time and discipline. And if we can help families navigate the education system — which hasn’t always been accessible due to language barriers, income restrictions or limited family support — we can get closer to reaching education equity.

What can Oregon State do to better support students from historically underserved areas?

We want students to thrive at our school and have a safe emotional space and sense of belonging. Unfortunately, students from historically underserved areas haven’t had equal access to the same opportunities as their white counterparts. For example, white students grow up going to OSU football games, visiting campus and can envision their future here. We want the same for historically underrepresented students — especially those who are first-generation college students. They should have the opportunity to go into a career after college that will help push through the glass ceiling — as many have families who come from generational poverty. And we can do that by helping students develop a network and find resources and connections that can help them land the job they want.

How did your experience getting to Oregon State shape the changes you want to make for future students?

I grew up in a low-income neighborhood called the Columbia Villa in Portland. In my childhood, I don’t remember Oregon State being an option for me. I did have the opportunity to prepare for college through the Upward Bound program and a scholarship from Casey Family Programs. But I had to navigate through all of it on my own. It made me realize the importance of advocacy, support, navigation, negotiation and engagement for students through a culturally responsive lens. Being able to direct them toward opportunities is one thing but helping them build pathways in uncharted waters before and throughout their college career
will add intrinsic value to their educational journey. 

The more we can collectively create a universal design model of inclusivity that focuses on cultural affirming programs, increase resources, identify and eliminate barriers for students, we will be able to show our commitment to educational equity and what it means to have accessibility with intentionality. 

I hope that by telling my story, it will one day empower the next student to focus on their goals and become change agents within society. 

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