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NYC's Lavonnie Green overcomes the odds, excels at Buffalo State

STAFF REPORTS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Lavonnie Green, a senior childhood education major from New York City, chose Buffalo State sight-unseen when she was a high school senior.

“A close friend was going here and being an education major, I thought Buffalo State was a good choice,” she said. “I also got accepted into Buffalo State’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which provides extra support to students from low economic backgrounds and who have other hardships.”

Green definitely had additional hardships besides economics to contend with. Her father died when she was in the fourth grade; when she was just 15 years old, her mother suddenly passed away. Green’s sister, who was 21 years old at the time of their mother’s death, took care of Green for the remainder of high school.

“I know that many people would view losing both parents as an excuse not to go to college, but it motivated me,” she said, pointing to her sister and her high school teachers as champions who pushed her toward college. “My life could have gone so many different ways. I grew up in Harlem and the Bronx, which people think of as ‘the hood.’ Lots of young people end up getting killed or getting pregnant. I could have been a regular statistic. To be in college now is such a blessing.”

Those same dedicated teachers inspired Green to pursue a career in elementary education. She added an extension to teach math in grades seven through nine.

“To me, it’s not just standing in front of a class and teaching a subject,” she said. “It’s connecting with students. You are often with the kids more than their parents are."

Along with working alongside teachers in the Buffalo Public Schools, Green has had the opportunity to teach children in Zambia, South Africa. She spent almost three weeks there last summer through Buffalo State’s International Professional Development Schools (IPDS).

“Kids in Zambia really care about education. They appreciate it because it’s not guaranteed,” she said. “If you don’t pass a test in seventh grade, you can’t continue. That motivates them.”

When Green has her own classroom someday, she hopes to motivate students to love learning just as much.

For now, Green is excelling in her academic classes and classroom immersion in public school classrooms. She also has emerged as a leader in Black Active Minds (BAM). She’s currently the vice president of the campus organization that facilitates discussions on several topics, including the social, economic, and political issues that affect minorities on a global scale. Through BAM, she said she’s met people from different organizations and backgrounds.

“You build friendships and build bonds that you wouldn’t expect,” she said. “I never knew you could love something so much.”

BAM also dovetails nicely with Green’s love for teaching.

“Our motto in BAM is Get a Higher Education to Teach Others. I feel like that’s what I’m doing here,” she said. “Being on the BAM e-board. I’ve learned not only how to run an organization but also how to communicate with others. There are a lot of things I’ve learned through BAM that I can apply to real life.”