Truman Scholar Emmanuel Pressley: Action and accomplishment
By PRINCESS B. WILLIAMS
Each morning he wakes up around 6:45 to go to breakfast. Then he heads to the gym with his best friend from 7:30 to 8:30.
Upon their arrival back, he normally turns on some smooth jazz or gospel while showering and preparing for classes. Before leaving his residence hall, he checks his email and reviews his planner to see if he has any meetings or special engagements.
Each night he prepares an “action list.” The list consists of every assignment or extracurricular responsibility in conjunction with his personal agenda. He meticulously plans what he must do and the things he would like to do.
After completing each assignment, he ends the day studying his Bible and praying.
Claflin University’s Truman scholar, Emmanuel Pressley does not follow the schedule of a typical college student.
Does the name ring a bell? It’s the name of that smiling face you see on the billboard when driving down the interstate or passing Claflin University.
Emmanuel Pressley is the only person in the state of South Carolina to obtain the 2014 Harry S. Truman Scholarship. The Truman Scholarship is the second highest scholarship in the nation.
It is a National Merit Scholarship founded in 1972. It is named after our 33rd president, Harry S. Truman.
Essentially, it is a public service scholarship that looks for individuals in their junior year who have demonstrated high academic achievement, leadership potential and a commitment to public service.
“Within obtaining it, you have to write nine essays. You have to prepare a policy presentation, research it, as well as a slew of interviews that are state, regional and national. You have to articulate your community and public service commitments, but also defend your policy presentation to a panel of six Truman scholars, as well as other invited guests,” Emmanuel said.
“I had to tailor my community service outreach. I had to tailor my classes, in which they were diverse. I had to take a balance of psychology, philosophy, English, math, history each and every semester, as well as they were rigorous.
“I was taking 19, sometimes 20 credit hours per semester, as well as my internships and leadership experiences on campus. I had to tailor that, all geared toward obtaining the scholarship.”
Pressley is a member of the Student Activities Board, the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College and Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society.
Hailing from a small town did not deter Emmanuel from the path of pursuing his huge dreams. Pressley is a 21-year-old senior from Hemingway who is majoring in politics and justice studies.
“Hemingway is a small town in Williamsburg County. It literally has like three stoplights. We have no McDonald’s. Everyone knows each other. It’s a close-knit community,” Emmanuel said.
One of Pressley’s biggest obstacles on his academic journey was growing up in a single-parent household.
“Quite frankly, it never dawned on me until I got to college. It never dawned on me that I wasn’t living in the normal nuclear family until I observed the relationship between my best friend and his father. They’re like best friends. They talk all the time, so that’s when it really dawned on me.”
“It really affected me in trying to find what is masculinity and what is manhood for myself. I remember wrestling with the decision of whether or not I wanted to have children, and whether or not I wanted to do certain things. When asked if I wanted to be a father, I was like, ‘Well I don’t know. I grew up in a single-parent household. How can you expect me to do something that I’ve never even seen before?
“I think at that moment, it really pushed me to come to the understanding about manhood, and what is manhood, and how will I define it for myself. It pushed me toward taking a Men and Masculinity class. I’ve read different novels, and I’ve always been informed when it comes to the public, when it comes to popular culture, as well as how our society sometimes stigmatizes, stereotypes and demonizes men, as well as their masculinity, as well as the patriotic view of our society today.
“I think through being educated, and through taking classes, but also going through a struggle, and an attempt to find myself, my manhood and my masculinity, I’ve come to the understanding of how I define masculinity, which is honor and character.”
Becoming a Truman scholar was by far one of the best single moments of Emmanuel’s undergraduate career.
“To stand there and have a gymnasium full of people applauding you and cheering you on was amazing.”
Emmanuel’s mouth dropped when someone sent him a picture via text message of himself on a billboad.
“I was actually prepping for the LSAT, taking a Kaplan course at St. John’s School of Law in Queens, New York. I had no idea they were going to put me on the billboards. My best friend, Deontez Wimbley, texted me and he said, ‘Pressley, they got you on a billboard!’ I said, ‘Deontez, stop playing. What do you mean? Claflin put me up on the marquee outside or something?’ I did not believe him at that time, because I did not believe that Claflin would put me on a billboard. I really did not.”
Upon graduating in May 2015, Emmanuel will be pursuing his master’s degree at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He hopes to obtain a law degree from Harvard University as well.
Emmanuel is an aspiring civil rights attorney and legal scholar. Pressley would like to run for office and create a nonprofit organization geared toward combating felon disenfranchisement laws and help rehabilitating ex-offenders back into society.
Like the scholar he is, Emmanuel already has his action list completed with the steps listed to achieve these goals. People from all over have seen his face and name on billboards. Look out. The next stop may be on our television screens.