Southern University student set to graduate, spent semester homeless
BATON ROUGE - A student at Southern University will be one of the last students to cross the stage with a bachelor's degree in architecture from Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Two years ago, the Board of Regents voted to terminate the architecture program citing declining enrollment. Taikian Brooks is one student who was determined not to let adversity stand in the way of his degree.
"I can say I earned every bit of it," Brooks said.
He's completed all the coursework needed to get a degree. Now, he's just waiting to walk across the stage.
"This program has taught me to be a designer and solve critical problems," Brooks said.
His professor, Archie Tiner Jr. proudly shows off the work he's completed.
He knows Brooks' situation is different than any other student he's taught over the past two decades.
"We haven't had one quite as severe as his," Tiner said. "We haven't had a person that has been challenged as long. He has been economically, and financially challenged for a couple of years."
Taikian Brooks is homeless. This classroom on Southern's campus is where he sleeps. A space heater next to a cot keeps him warm at night. Next to it, you can see an iron, and shoes where he dresses with desks in the background. Brooks eats when he can find a meal, and has lived like this all semester.
"I try to go into one of the dorms to take a shower," Brooks said. "Sometimes I have to catch the sink."
Brooks said he got kicked out of the dorms earlier this year, after he helped another student in need "bunk" in his room. When the University found out, he was removed from the dorm, per university rules. That's when Professor Tiner stepped in to help his student he knew, had what it takes to get a degree.
"I gave him some assistance in being able to live until we got to where we are now," Tiner said.
With unwavering support from his mentor and family, Brooks doesn't know if he'll ever be able to thank those who have helped him.
"If you have determination you still can get through this and can still arrive at a degree," Tiner said. "That is the most important thing for his community, his parents and his mother is very much pleased with what he's done."
As he prepares for graduation, he's ready to walk away from being homeless, and enter the next chapter of his life.
"It is a blessing that you all helped me receive one of the biggest blessings I'll ever get," Brooks said. "My heart is out there for y'all and one day I will pay every one of you back."
Once Brooks graduates Friday, he wants to start working on his Master's Degree. He wants to attend Georgia Tech and become a professor.