Student: Jackquelyn Derritt
She admired her teachers at White Oak High School in Jacksonville because of their commitment to their students. “They were always there for students who didn’t necessarily have parental figures at home,” she said. “I just found it very comforting that adults were able to do that, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Derritt came to ECU as an intended music education major, switched to psychology and then English after taking an introductory course with senior teaching instructor Jennifer Sisk, who encouraged her decision. “I’ve always loved to read. It was the subject I was best in in high school, and I thought I should give it a try. It ended up working out.”
In May, Derritt earned two degrees, a bachelor’s in English and a bachelor’s in education. She’s now a graduate student and teaching assistant with Dr. Marianne Montgomery, whose supernatural Shakespeare class is in a lecture hall that seats more than 100 students. It was intimidating at first because the room is much larger than the English class Derritt taught at D.H. Conley High School in Greenville for her required education internship last year. “It’s scary because I’ve never been in a class with that many students, but it’s also exciting because I keep thinking, ‘This could be me one day. I could have a class this big.’”
Derritt said her experience at Conley working with English teacher Christy Sutton has helped prepare her for the future. “She’s the best mentor I ever had. She proves that teachers can make a difference,” said Derritt, who got to know her high school students, went to their ballgames and still stays in touch. “I think it’s great that I was able to make an influence on their lives,” she said.
The internship also helped Derritt become more comfortable with public speaking. “You can see there’s a huge change because when I went in I was a shy little bubble, and I didn’t like speaking to anybody, but they gave us a lot of practice because we had to have goals that we worked toward as teachers. Mine was always to be more comfortable talking to and in front of people. And Christy Sutton definitely helped me do that in my internship.”
This year, Derritt also is an assistant with Dr. Andrea Kitta, examining ECU’s folklore archives and student projects dating back to the ’80s. “It’s really interesting to read what was going on in their lives during that time,” she said.
Outside of class and work, Derritt enjoys spending time with friends and weightlifting at the Student Recreation Center. Last year, she and a friend started attending many of the Student Activities Board events that were offered. In addition to free food and merchandise, she met a lot of people and felt more connected with the university. “You come to realize how much ECU is providing for you. They’re never shy on their resources, and there are so many people who are here to help you and bond with you.”
Growing up, Derritt moved frequently because her father was in the military, which took the family from California, where she was born, to Colorado, New York and finally North Carolina. “I feel like North Carolina was the place I liked the most. It’s a place I want to stay, and I want to teach here too,” she said.
Derritt is looking forward to all the new opportunities that are coming in her first year in graduate school. “I’m very excited to keep working with Dr. Montgomery because she said she sees a lot of similarities between us when she was a student, so it makes me feel hopeful because she’s so successful now,” she said. “And I’m looking forward to learning new things. I don’t think a lot of people realize how much of a privilege it is to go to college, and just entering this year, I’ve felt nothing but grateful.”
As Derritt worked through deciding on her undergraduate majors, she said she struggled and doubted herself at times. “I realized that nothing comes easy if you really, really want it. It’s going to hurt and be hard, but if you really want something, you have to work for it.
“For anyone who’s unsure of their path, it’ll come clear when the time is right. I think it’s very easy to give up, especially in college because you can feel like you’re alone and you don’t know what you’re doing, but nobody really knows what they’re doing. I think all that comes with experience, and everything will work out in the end.”
Name: Jackquelyn Derritt
Major: English studies
Classification/Year: First-year graduate student
Hobbies/interests: Weightlifting, baking, trying new restaurants and reading
Clubs and Organizations: Former Student Ambassador, Pirate Navigator and member of the School of Music Women’s Choir
Favorite hangout: Walking through uptown and the greenway
Favorite place on campus: Wright Plaza seating area outside of Einstein Bagel Bros
Favorite place to eat: Christy’s Euro Pub
Favorite class: Teaching Composition (English 6625)
Professor who influenced you the most: Jennifer Sisk
Favorite TV show: “Regular Show”
Favorite band/musician: Drake
Favorite movie: “Clueless”
Favorite app: BeReal
Dream job: College professor for rhetoric or composition
Role model: My father
Your words to live by: Nothing is embarrassing unless you make it embarrassing.
What advice do you have for other students? Even when things get difficult, keep pushing. College can be a time to test your strength and while this can be intimidating, just know that there’s always someone rooting for you on the other side (if no one else, ECU is).
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? Something cool about ECU that I wish I knew during my first year was how many free resources are available for students. Ranging from the Women and Gender Office and the LGBTQ+ center that provide personal hygiene products to the Purple Pantry that provides non-perishable food to the Student Activities Board that can provide money, meals, dorm essentials and clothes, the opportunities for students living on and off campus are endless. ECU truly does try their best to make their students feel secure and at home — make sure to take advantage of this!