I met Cassius Stallings last semester. We were filming a video for the ASAP program, a project that explained the program to high school guidance counselors, and the ASAP coordinator suggested Cassius as a good student to talk about the program.
Cassius, it turned out, was great in front of the camera. He was natural and succinct. He answered honestly and without hesitation. I’ve interviewed a number of people in front of a camera for various Ivy Tech videos, and Cassius was about as natural as I’d seen anyone during taping. (Check out Cassius in this ASAP video at :33, 1:36, and 3:49.)
A few months later, a call out came from Ivy Tech’s Office of the President looking for students and young faculty members to be in a new set of commercials that would air throughout the state. Cassius immediately came to mind as an ideal candidate. I wrote up a short synopsis of his story, sent in a brief snippet from his interview and sure enough, a few weeks later, the Office of the President contacted Cassius to be in the commercial.
They filmed earlier this month, and he says the process was fun. Initially, he was given one line to read, over and over.
“I said it so well, they gave me a few more lines,” he says.
“I am a problem-solver.” “I choose a college that cares about me.” “I choose a college that’s affordable.”
If anything, Cassius was too happy to be there–they asked him to tone down his big ol’ grin more than once, he says.
After meeting and learning more about Cassius, he is certainly the kind of student Ivy Tech should be glad to promote: He graduated from South Side High School in 2012 and was immediately drawn to the ASAP program because he wanted to finish with his associate degree in just one year. As a member of the program, he signed a pledge that he wouldn’t work during the school week; because the program is so intense, the College asks ASAP students to look at their program as their 40-hour-a-week gig. So Cassius can only work on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays–eight-hour shifts at Wal-Mart, assuring he doesn’t have much free time in a regular week.
Some of the free time he does have is spent with My Brother’s Keeper, a mentor group that starts kids out in middle school and pairs them with older teens and adults throughout the program. Local business owners come in and talk about the importance of higher ed, as do the older mentors. Cassius said he has talked up Ivy Tech on more than one occasion. He also volunteers at Youth for Christ.
Cassius plans to graduate from Ivy Tech Northeast at the end of May, and he hopes to transfer over to IPFW and look into joining the National Student Exchange, which would allow him to spend time at companion schools.
“I’m thinking Arizona,” he says. “I really wanna go somewhere hot.”