ECU Honors College senior strives to help underserved youth

Tiana Washington is an Honors College senior who strives to help underserved youth. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

The following story was originally published by ECU News Services in 2021.

When Tiana Washington learned of East Carolina University’s motto servire, or to serve, she knew she would fit right into the culture of the Greenville campus.

“I decided to come to ECU for the ample and unparalleled opportunities for service, internship and research,” Washington said. “I was drawn to the mission of ECU, which is to serve, and work with vulnerable populations surrounding eastern North Carolina.”

The senior from Raleigh is an EC Scholar in the Honors College, with a double major in neuroscience and psychology and minors in Hispanic studies and science.

She’s interned at the Third Street Education Center in Greenville, where she developed a remediation program for students reading below grade level. She also interned at READ ENC, where the goal is to ensure access to quality education and to increase literacy among youth. She tutored low income and underserved students in reading and math in Costa Rica, also helping mothers learn English. She’s also mentored at-risk youth, creating activities that focused on positive youth development.

“I feel as though being a student at ECU, we are not just students but potential leaders and advocates, and most of all, we are part of the community,” Washington said. “As a member of this community, we have a duty to serve and give back, especially since so many of us come with access to resources that our community of Greenville and the rest of eastern North Carolina may not have the privilege of having.”

Washington, left, stands with other ECU EC Scholars as they deliver part of a collection of books to the ECU Community School in Greenville as part of the Books that Embrace Race Fundraiser. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

In the fall, Washington was part of the EC Scholars’ Books that Embrace Race Fundraiser in which $4,000 was raised to purchase books that encourage positive youth development and represent children of color. About 2,000 books were donated to the ECU Community School and the Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County.

“Growing up as a Black woman, I did not see myself represented in media nor in the books my parents read to me unless it was something stereotypical. Growing up, whiteness was the default,” Washington said. “With this fundraiser and buying and donating over 2,000 books to children across Pitt County, we are able to introduce that positive representation. We can show children of color and other children of vulnerable populations that they can defy stereotypes and be more than what the world may try to define them as.”

Washington’s latest effort is the Student Perspectives Magazine, the goal of which is to make a positive impact on social justice issues by amplifying minority voices.

“This magazine will be uncomfortable, but that’s the point,” Washington said. “In order to grow in our understanding of the world around us, we must become uncomfortable. When discussing race or sexuality, we must have those tough conversations in order to better understand one another. This magazine is one way to start the conversation.”

Washington studies for a test in the Main Campus Student Center. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

Washington said she draws inspiration to serve the community from her mother, Anjanette Harris.

“Growing up, my mother instilled in me to use my privilege to help those who do not have it and to remember where I came from,” Washington said. “With this, I have always sought to help others, and most of all, to be humble.”

After graduation, Washington plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health, concentrating on health disparities, and then go to medical school.

“Because I wish to be a pediatric psychiatrist, I want to make a great impact intersecting race with health care and help to cultivate a community that wishes to mitigate the disparities people of color have with our white counterparts, especially in mental health,” she said.