Freshman overcomes adversity


Photo by Megan Thorne

Clifton Jett, president of the Black Student Union introduces Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Immediately after high school graduation, Clifton Jett’s mother sat down with her son and asked if he wanted to pursue college.

“I was diagnosed with a learning disability in the second grade and was held back,” Jett said. “Since then, I’ve struggled academically. I decided to come to college because there were too many opportunities for me to say ‘no.’”

The freshman theatre major said he takes whatever opportunities come his way, whether that’s running his own theatre company or becoming president of the Black Student Union.

“Coming to college is something I don’t regret at all,” Jett said. “God led me in the right direction.”

In the face of obstacles and setbacks, Jett calls himself a self-motivator.

“It’s a matter of pushing myself,” he said. “Sometimes I’m not successful, but what matters is knowing that I tried.”

As BSU president, Jett wants the African-American community on campus to grow.

“My biggest goal is to recruit,” he said. “My second goal is to make a difference. I want our BSU to create an impact on those who need it the most and create a safe zone for people of color.”

So far, Clifton said BSU has about 15-20 people.

“When I toured USI, the biggest thing I noticed is that there’s not many African-Americans,” he said. “The school isn’t really known for its African-American community. I hope the university works on increasing our number.”

Jett said race isn’t the only aspect of diversity he’s concerned with.

“I would like to see more of the LGBT community,” he said. “USI is accepting, but our LGBT community is segregated. I think we should bring everyone together.”

As a gay male, Jett has taken the adversities he’s faced and put them into a show called “Behind the Scenes.”

The show tells the narrative of a teenage boy trying to navigate being gay while dealing with a Christian family.

Jett will star in and direct the show in August in Indianapolis through his theatre company, Jett Theatrical Productions.

“It was challenging for me to remind myself of what I’ve been through, but I remind myself that it’s something a lot of people are going through,” he said. “When I think I could help someone, I feel so much better.”

Jett said he’s been busy with the pre-production of his play as well as BSU duties and class.

“There’s so many things I can do at USI,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve been here long enough to explore everything.”

While Jett has a number of commitments to juggle, Multicultural Center Assistant Director D’Angelo Taylor said Jett’s been incredibly successful.

“My proudest moment for him was when he introduced the NAACP President at the MLK Luncheon,” Taylor said. “He got up and spoke in front of 400 people without missing a beat.”

Taylor said Jett had the highest GPA last semester out of the MCC’s Collegiate Men of Distinction, which is impressive for a freshman who is also serving a resident assistant for campus housing.

“He was excited, but Clifton is very humble,” he said. “He doesn’t take it for granted.”

Taylor said Jett understands leadership and is learning the ropes early.

“He works hard in the classroom, and he manages his obligations,” he said. “He understands how to manage his time.”

When approached for names of students to represent the Multicultural Center, Taylor said Jett is his go-to guy.

“He’s humble, hardworking and a leader,” he said. “Everybody likes Clifton.”