Episode 8: They Told Me I Couldn’t, So That’s Why I Did—College Advising Corps’ Origin Story

Featured Guest

 

Eric “Doc Griggs” Griggs, M.D.

New Orleans-based Community Medicine Doctor and Health Educator who has dedicated his professional life to raising health and wellness awareness in the communities across the country.

 

 

 

 

Transcript

Nicole Hurd: Welcome back everybody to the Knowledge for College podcast. I am your host, Dr. Nicole Hurd, and I have a treat for you today. College Advising Corps is an organization that’s helping first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students get to college through near-peer advisers who we love and want to use this podcast as a way to lift them up and give them advice.

But it’s really important that we tell our stories. And so today you’re actually going to hear the origin story of the College Advising Corps through the eyes of a dear friend of mine and our friendship, Dr. Eric Griggs.

So, we’re going to introduce Eric in one second. I do want to just say, as I tell this origin story, I hope you see some persistence and some light and some love, but most of all, back to the four words that I think are most critical for the College Advising Corps and for all of us, which is saying, “I believe in you.”

And so, this is somebody I believe in with my whole heart. This is a friend. This is not a friend; this is family. This is somebody I love. Knowledge for College podcast listeners, viewers. Let’s give a big, welcome to Dr. Eric Griggs.

Eric, my friend. Hello.

Eric Griggs:  Hello, hello. Thank you for having me on here, Nicole. It’s good to see you.

Nicole Hurd:  Good to see you.

So, let’s talk a little bit about how we met. So, we met in college. You want to tell everybody kind of quickly how in the world did you end up—you’re from North Carolina originally—how did you end up in South Bend, Indiana? How did you end up at the University of Notre Dame?

Eric Griggs:  So can we start with the fact that I didn’t know where South Bend, Indiana was or what South Bend, Indiana was?

It was college application season. You’re getting applications from everywhere. There was a bunch of madness. I had some athletic opportunities, academic opportunities. And then in the midst of all of this, I get a call from this guy who I’m friends with now. He’s still family.  Fred Tombar. And Fred said, “Hey man, you okay?”

Folks, kids, this is before the day and age of caller ID or even call waiting. You just answer the phone and roll the dice. He didn’t even introduce himself. He said, “Man, you all right?” I’m like, “No.” He’s like, “It’s kinda tough, huh?” And he just started talking. Well, who is this? “So, you don’t know me. I’m Fred Tombar from Notre Dame, and I realize that this is a tough season for you. Have you considered Notre Dame?” I’m like, “Man, I don’t even know what that is.” I wasn’t a football fan, right? I knew Notre Dame had a really slow basketball offense. I was a hooper. And I know it was a great school, but I hadn’t considered it. He’s like, “Man, you should really give it a shot. Give it a try.”

And then for the next four, six, eight weeks, he would just keep calling. And then he got Andre Jones to call, Jim Singleton to call me. Derek Johnson did it. They just kept calling and they were just really mentoring me through this whole process and helping me decipher where I wanted to go. And they offered for me to come up for minority recruitment weekend and I actually met these dudes and it just felt like home. And then there was this place called the Grotto, and apparently it was around finals time or midterms time and it was crowded. And I said, “What are they doing?” and they said, “They’re praying.” I’m like, “Dude, it’s this hard? Are you sure?” He’s like, “Bro. Trust me, bro. It’s rough, but you’ll get through it.”

And at that point, I pretty much made my decision after that weekend because these guys have become friends and they remained it. It was a genuine introduction to the family, bringing into the fold, and I’ve been there ever since. That was in 1987.

Nicole Hurd:  Yes, it was. And so, that’s where we met.

I’ll tell quickly, for all of our listeners, viewers, the way I got there. So again, this is very much part of the College Advising Corps’ origin story, right? I am the product of two first-generation college graduates myself, right? My father on his father’s side, a recent immigrant family ended up in Detroit and through a whole lot of luck and a lot of people supporting him, he ended up at Notre Dame himself and then ended up in California where he met my mom. My mom is a first-generation college graduate, and my mother actually never met her father. He was killed in World War II when my grandma was pregnant.

So, I have two parents that understood resilience and sacrifice and how important education is and how it was going to be the way out of generational poverty, out of… The way to kind of capture the American dream, right? When Monica left for college—my daughter left for college a couple of weeks ago—Eric helped walk me through that because we’re in a pandemic. But when she left, I thought about—and this is true of all of us, right—she’s the dream of somebody from a different shore. She is the sparkle in somebody who’s working on a car lines. I. And now she’s the hope of me and her father and off to college she goes, right? And that’s the story.

It might look different for different people, but that story of a dream that becomes a sparkle that becomes real, I think, is very much the college story for lots of us. And so, I ended up at Notre Dame, partly because my dad went there, partly because my college counselor told me I couldn’t get in. And as Eric knows, if you want me to do something, tell me I can’t do it.

Eric Griggs:  So Nicole, quick interjection. So, I just designed my office. And my wife—well, I didn’t design it—she designed it and all of the signage. If you can read this, she said, “This is you.” And what does it say?

Nicole Hurd: Yeah. “They told me I couldn’t. That’s why I did.” Bingo. Right there.

Eric Griggs:  That is Nicole. That is Nicole. That is Nicole.

Nicole Hurd:  So tell 17-year old Nicole she can’t go to Notre Dame and watch her.

And again, I was like you. I had never been to South Bend, Indiana. I was born in the Bay Area. I grew up in Los Angeles. I had never been to the state of Indiana. I had no clue what I was getting into. So off we went and there we met.

So, do you want to take it from there? How did we meet?

Eric Griggs:  So we were involved in student government, multicultural executive council, doing all this stuff. Nicole’s hanging around and I’m pretty much on the path to med school. My roommates are Irv Smith, Nick Smith, Brian King. We’re all hanging out and I am done. You could put a fork in me. I fought the fight. Student government tried to make this change. Caught a lot of resistance. Met a lot of cool people but I was done. I’m in med school. I’m ready to move on and figure out what am I going to do with the rest of my life.

And all of the sudden Nicole comes in the room and said, “Eric. I have a favor to ask.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” “Well, I want to run for student body president.” “Oh, that’s great. What do you need me to do? You want me to put up signs? What do you want me to do?” “I want you to run with me.” I’m like, “Wait, what? Um, no, but what else do you need?” And just again, as you just said, tell her she can’t and of course she will. She was very persistent and next thing I know, there is the “American Gothic” farmer Griggs.

And I’ll let you run the campaign, run where we went from there. We had no idea of the wild ride that we would be on.

Nicole Hurd:  No, no. No clue. Matter of fact, I can remember, yes, being very persistent. And just to give everybody some context…

Eric Griggs:  “I will leave you alone if you say yes.” “Nicole. Okay, fine. Fine.”

Nicole Hurd:  Well, and to give everybody some context, I was the first woman to ever run for student body president at Notre Dame. And as a woman and a black student, this was not the norm in 1991 and South Bend, Indiana. So, for those of you who are looking at us saying, “What’s the big deal?” it was a very big deal in 1991.

Eric Griggs:  Well, I understand the numbers haven’t changed much. There were 350 African Americans out of roughly 10,000 students, including undergrad and grad. So we were very much… We’re all unicorns, but they didn’t realize that unicorns like to herd up. No pun intended, Dr. “Hurd.”

Nicole Hurd:  And not only that. It’s a school that didn’t have a lot of women in it either, right? I had gone from…

Eric Griggs:  Ten to one at the time.

Nicole Hurd:  I remember getting there thinking, where’s all the diversity I grew up with, right? I grew up in LA and now we’ve got not a lot of women and not a lot of people of color, and it was shocking to be honest. And then now we’re running for office and yeah, we can talk about it, but I think you and I had had conversations.

We were worried about things like, “Oh, well, they’re going to talk about who that person dated,” or, “They’re going to talk about who that person had maybe one too many beers at some party.” That’s not what people talked about. It was not the politics of personal assassination. It was the politics of being a woman and a student of color in 1991.

Eric Griggs:  If we’re going to tell the truth though, Nicole, you bore the brunt of it. I didn’t get that. And maybe it was because… I don’t know. I heard about it, but there was never anything to my… No one would do that. Maybe because I had big friends? I wasn’t the smallest guy. I was small amongst my friends, but I don’t know. But seriously, I never… I would get angry because what would happen to you but no one would come in my face and say that and stuff.

Nicole Hurd:  Yep. No. So, I mean, we’ll talk about what happened, right? So, we knocked on every door. We were fearless and persistent. Knocked on every door.

Let’s just pause. We knocked on every door. It was a lot of doors. And look it, there were some dumb comments, right? About how—what was it—”A black and a bim will never win.” That was one that came my way. There was our student body debate where the cartoon afterwards, they sketched us all out, but they sketched Eric like he’d come off the basketball court and everybody else had coats and ties on, where Eric had a coat and tie on during that debate. So, there were these what we call microaggressions today. I’m not even sure they were that micro to be honest. But the big one came the night we lost, right? So, and again, just to nerd out…

Eric Griggs:  Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… You’re not giving yourself credit. We lost, but we lost by 150 votes in the runoff. Out of 10,000 students, the black and the bim lost by 150 votes in the runoff at Notre Dame. That’s a big deal now.

Nicole Hurd:  It was a big deal. It was a big deal. And all of the other tickets were our fellow students, but they were not… there was no diversity on those tickets, right? They were white male tickets. And look it, I’ll really nerd out. If there had been an electoral college of dorms—since that’s the world we live in now—we would’ve won. So, we actually won more dorms.

Eric Griggs:  We didn’t do too sorely in the debates either from what I remember. I don’t think they were prepared for that.

Nicole Hurd:  Yeah. So, what happened was we lost that night and then the harassment came, right? I got called things that I’m not going to repeat on this podcast. They’re words you don’t say, about you and about me. My parents got called.

Eric Griggs:  And they would never say that. They never said, “Hey, Eric, how are you?” “Hey, what’s up?” Alright.

Nicole Hurd:  Yeah, no, the calls came to my dorm room, right? And this is back in the day when your parents’ phone number was in the directory, so they called my parents back in California and said, “Your liberal daughter’s ruining our school.” And again, you gotta remember, for our viewers, this is before Instagram. This is before computers.

Eric Griggs: This is before the internet.

Nicole Hurd: I took a typewriter to college. Let’s be clear. So, this is before all this happened. And it rubbed up against something that was also happening on campus, which was separate, right? So, Eric, do you want to talk about what was going on?

Eric Griggs:  In light of everything that’s happened in the last six months, this summer, this awakening that everyone has received, we had our own reckoning at Notre Dame. Some of the same demands that took place on campus recently with the students as a consequence of the George Floyd tragedy this summer took place then. We had a group, Students United for Respect, staged a sit in on the administration. We wanted things like tenure for professors.

During Black History Month, they had in both dining halls, they had album covers… Folks that don’t know, album covers are these square things that go around these disks of plastic, that with a needle play music. But they had the album covers of gospel singers. They had gospel blaring from the speakers.

Then in February, since it’s in honor of Black History Month, they served fried chicken, fried bologna, watermelon, and a couple of other really stereotypically offensive, offensive things. One of the things that still happens to this day—and it’s not unique to Notre Dame—is people always want to know, “Why do all the black people sit together? Why do all the Asians sit together? Why do all the Latinx people sit together?” Well, our answer was, “Why do you sit together?” You sit with your friends. And then we would actively try to quote, unquote, integrate tables and people would get up and leave. So, there was a lot. And the tensions were boiling.

We have a basketball tournament called Bookstore Basketball. 750 teams, outdoors, all weather. Just five sign up and you just play. Well, that’s when the racial tensions come to a head with the names and just the plan. I mean, the campus gets really polarized. Well again, things had really built to a head. There were a lot of things. Nicole and I were involved in student government. I think when I applied to med school, I had 27 different extracurriculars. We were on every committee, and as soon as something would go wrong, they would call us. I remember Adele… I can’t remember, Adele…

Eric Griggs: Multicultural Executive Council.

Nicole Hurd: Yup, we were on the Multicultural Executive Council together.

Eric Griggs: Yeah, remember that? We got to learn about all kinds of… you name the cultures. I ate couscous for the first time. Public Enemy came to campus. There’s all kinds of things just to understand that we all live together. The whole diversity picture.

Well, we were in a bubble. Before the COVID bubble, there was our bubble and we weren’t well-received. And again, stuff for Students United for Respect. We shut everything down. All of our parents… we’d made arrangements, we started making arrangements to go to other schools to transfer in case we got kicked out. This wasn’t the day and age of social media, but we still got the word out. I think we got it to USA Today. Our parents were calling us, chewing us out because they thought were going to ruin our lives and we didn’t care. And what they did was they filibustered us. What they did, they convened us… They convinced us to leave the building, then they convened us, and then they said that we’ll have a meeting and then we’ll set up a board and we’ll set up a committee and then dah, dah, dah. And what they’re doing is they’re just waiting you out until you graduate. And then they recruit a more docile group of kids the next time.

Nicole Hurd:  And look it, as a lot of our advisers and students are… They also had the same experience, right? We have not broken this, this cycle, right? I mean, we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. We didn’t call it that in 1991 quite the same way, but we were living it in a big way in terms of really… That list of demands, I looked at it from Students United for Respect in 1991. It’s the same list of demands that so many students wrote this year after George Floyd was murdered, right? It’s the same list of demands.

Eric Griggs:  Well, we grew up during a different time though, too though. Like the racial tensions… There are so many things; racial and gender equity issues. All this stuff, it was just accepted. I mean, the terms were horrible. The things you would see that were on TV were not funny.

People would make a big… “Oh, this is a black guy.” And using the N-word was just, oh, something that you hear, and it was funny. “Oh, we’re not talking about you.” There are a lot of things that were just accepted that were just horrible, and we were kind of way ahead of the curve with being offended and speaking out about it.

Nicole Hurd:  Way ahead of the curve. And look it, it was important, right? And it made us both who we are now because I think about whether it was our election, or frankly, on the gender role piece, right? Or on just being a woman in there. I remember a student senate bill around what you do when you have to report a rape, right? And what do you do when there’s been a sexual assault on your campus. None of that infrastructure was there. There was no place to go. I mean, I used to joke and in some ways that they thought by admitting women, all they had to do was take the urinals out of the bathroom and then they could admit us, right? That’s not how that works.

Actually, when you bring people to campus, you need to know… And look it, there’s a professor at Harvard, Anthony Jack—who I really admire his scholarship—and he talks about access is not inclusion. Right?

Eric Griggs: It’s not.

Nicole Hurd: It’s not. And so, whether you’re a person of color, whether you’re a woman, in 1991, access was not inclusion.

Eric Griggs:  Do you remember the fact that the guys had… we had a laundry service?

Nicole Hurd:  Yes.

Eric Griggs:  And the women did not?

Nicole Hurd: Yes, actually we should bring that one up. I want the viewers, the listeners to hear that one. Yew, when I got to Notre Dame, Eric had laundry service with all the other gentlemen on campus

Eric Griggs: Twice a week, yes?

Nicole Hurd: Twice a week, they had their laundry taken to St. Michael’s, if I’m not mistaken, was the name of the laundry processing plant.

Eric Griggs: You all burned it down.

Nicole Hurd: And then us ladies had to go to the basement of our dorms and do our own laundry. In 1988, folks, 1989, 1990.

Nicole Hurd:  It was a different time and I think both of us knew it wasn’t okay, right? And so, we used our voices in ways that we could do what we could as 22-year olds. So, I’d say this is an origin story, because I think after that experience, neither of us were ever the same.

So, talk about what you did next and how that experience changed who you are and what you do now. Because you practice—and I want you to talk about this, Eric, because it’s important—you practice community medicine, right? You practice something that I think is really profound. So, talk to us about the through line from our college experience to who you are now.

Eric Griggs:  Through my college experience… ended up coming to Tulane. And it was actually the first time going from North Carolina to South Bend, came to New Orleans. And I think if I’m not mistaken, Notre Dame, they would make sure they timed our springs breaks in an off time for everyone else, so we would be less likely to get in trouble.

So, I ended up coming to Tulane and it was, I’ll never forget, it was like 20 degrees when I left South Bend. Because I was dating in my hometown honey; she was at Tulane. Got down to New Orleans. It was like 75 degrees. There was this phenomenon called Mardi Gras going on. People are outside hanging out. And when I looked around—at the time, I think the city was 60, 65, or 70% African-American—and it was the first time in my life since third grade that I ever felt comfortable because there were more people that looked like me. And it was really interesting to watch how… And if you look at the history of New Orleans, the city itself, generations of successful people, generations of lawyers, generations of doctors, generations of teachers, generations and generations of African-American people that really had never been the minority. And it was comforting.

So, I ended up staying down here, going to Tulane, went through med school. And during that time, everything about healthcare changed. They changed all the policies. I do community medicine now, which is an amazing… It’s been an amazing journey, because no one knew what it was until I just kept doing it and saying it and doing it because I wanted to do it my way.

I thought I wanted to do neurosurgery. Everyone thought I should’ve been a pediatrician ‘cause I’m a big kid. I love kids. But it was Doc Hollywood, the movie Doc Hollywood, where Michael J. Fox is driving to this surgeon. On his way to residency, his car breaks down. It ends up, while his car is there, in order to pay for his keep, he has to help the town doc out.

Medicine is about community first.

And then when I realized New Orleans and Louisiana were at the top of every bad list and the bottom of every good when it came to health, I’m like, well these are the people that have accepted me and they’ve loved on me, so I want to love on them. And how best to do that is through giving them your gift. There’s three Ts: your time, your talent, and your treasure. And New Orleans helped shaped me into who I am, so I’ve dedicated my life to giving New Orleans and Louisiana all of it. I meet people where they are. I stay up late, late, late at night. And Nicole, I know we wouldn’t bring up COVID, but no, in the midst of COVID, I’ve been putting in 18-hour days, seven days a week since March 13th, to make sure everyone understands everything that’s going on.

Just because you can read a book, doesn’t make you intelligent. What makes you intelligent is that you can ask the questions and say, “I don’t understand.” And then you take it, you absorb the information, and then you’re able to give it back. That’s the sender/receiver with the message in the middle. The most important part is the feedback. So I’ve dedicated my life to doing community medicine. It’s three Ps. It’s people, it’s practice, and policy, and ensuring that the people are in the room when the policies are made. Because like Dr. Hurd, we have the titles and we have the resumes to be in the policy rooms, but if the people aren’t in the room, then your practices don’t make any sense.

So that’s kind of where I am and that fight started, it actually started at Notre Dame… That experience—well gosh, I’ve never told you this before—it really let me know that no matter what, I would be still be viewed for the color of my skin. We’ve been with these people for three, four years. I never knew they felt this way about me. I still wasn’t mad at the time ‘cause they wouldn’t say it to me, probably because they’d get punched in the mouth. But that would have been against du Lac and I didn’t want to get kicked out of school.

I just realized that you can’t let anyone get in your way. And Nicole, to be quite honest, that experience was a big “you can’t,” I think for both of us. And it’s not an “I did.” We’re still doing. And the sweetest revenge is success and by helping as many people as you can so they can tell their story about how you helped them.

Nicole Hurd:  That’s right. Look it, Eric. I think story is also completely influenced by our story together, right? So, College Advising Corps really came about because… I’m not a medical doctor like you. My kids say, “You’re not a real doctor, Mom. You’re a book doctor.” Right?

Eric Griggs:  The medical doctors can’t read the books if the doctors don’t teach them how. So, no.

Nicole Hurd:  So here I am with a Ph.D. in religious studies and teaching at the University of Virginia. Trying my best to be the faculty member that understands context and understands our students and understands the stressors, and then looking around saying, “You know what? I’m still part of the system and it’s not working for everybody.”

The College Advising Corps was really built on the idea of we have all this talent. Why isn’t it in higher education? And when it gets there, why doesn’t it have access to being seen and valued and heard? Because, like we said before, that list of demands is the same.

So I’ve dedicated my life to making sure that every student hears those words—I believe in you—and that when they get to those campuses, they actually can act on them, right? That they can actually be seen and valued and heard. And hold these institutions accountable for investing in our students. And that’s the battle I’m fighting right now, right? Is to make sure that… It’s not enough to say, “Oh, we’re going to have X number of women or X number of people of color.” It’s not enough to check the box. Matter of fact, I find checking the box to be offensive. Are we really going to do the work or are we just going to check the box? Right? And the College Advising Corps is about doing the work. It’s about understanding that whether you’re a student in California or Louisiana or Missouri or North Carolina or anywhere in between, you have value and that your way to really shine is to realize your promise through education, right?

Eric Griggs: Break the box. Stomp the box. Break the box.

Nicole Hurd: That’s right. Break the box.  You have value, right? The Notre Dame experience was a huge piece of my journey to finally learn this. It’s actually not what other people think. It’s what you think, right? It’s not what other people think.

So, maybe one of the reasons why you and I are resilient is because we had a lot of hate coming at us. And then you realize, “You know what? It’s not about them. It’s about who am I? What are my gifts and how am I showing up?” And if my intention is true and my intention is real and my belief system is about loving and it’s about holding people up and it’s about seeing them, then I don’t care what else comes at me because I know what my intention is and I know who I am and I know who I’m doing this with it and I know who is on this journey with me, right? And that’s where the rubber hits the road. That’s where the real sense of who you are shows.

Eric Griggs:  Yeah, I get mad every time that you bring it up. Like I said, you bore the brunt of that hate that you’re talking about. ‘Cause they would never say it to my face. “Hey Eric, how are you?”

Which is equally dangerous if not more dangerous. I’m 50 now, so I get heartburn when I get upset now.

Nicole Hurd:  You just told everybody our age, Eric. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Eric Griggs:  No, no, no, no, no… I was an older student at the time. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Nicole Hurd:  As we kind of get to wrapping this together, since this was the origin story… Like I said, there wouldn’t be a College Advising Corps if Eric Griggs hadn’t been in my life.

So just know that you have been a friend and a source of love and a source of inspiration for over 30 years now. But let’s…

But let’s talk about when you think about your hopes, what motivates you and what your hopes are. I don’t want to end with a feisty conversation about what we went through. I want to talk about what motivates us now and what we see going forward.

So, what gives you hope, Eric? What keeps you going?

Eric Griggs:  So, it’s interesting as we’re sitting here talking about it. So, you remember that day that you finally just persisted and bugged the heck out of me until I said yes? I’m going to ask for a return of favor and you’ll see how this is connected.

There was a kid… I went through a divorce years ago—not ashamed to say it—and started a basketball club in the neighborhood, ‘cause the kids in the neighborhood were breaking into houses. There was a lot of crime in the neighborhood. We ended up starting a basketball team, ran it for over 900 years.

The kids. Wasn’t the best neighborhood. They all had aspirations of going to play pros and they want to do AAU, but the families didn’t have it. So, I paid for everything. Anyone I was dating at the time, my wife now… We were funding it, feeding them. I’m showing up for parent-teacher conferences. Really trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, because I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore because it had changed from an hour visit to 15 minutes.

It wasn’t like taking care of people. It was like a factory. So, I really just went head down, headfirst into the community. So, I spent time with these kids. Well, a couple of them… There’s several. I can’t tell you how many have gotten football scholarships. A lot of them gone on basketball. They’ve gone on to college, gotten degrees there.

Well, there’s one kid that really took a liking to me. Kyron. Kyron was 11. I ran into him last night actually, at a restaurant. And they’re doing the COVID thing. He’s finishing up and we were talking about, “So you’re going to be finishing up soon. You’re gonna finish playing football. You got an extra year left. What are you going to do?” “Well, I’m going to go to kinesiology. I want to do something in medicine.” And I was with another colleague and like, “Well, why not be a doctor?” “I don’t think I can do that.” “Well, what do you mean?” “I don’t know that [inaudible]. But Coach, you’re a doctor but you’re a coach.” I’m like, “Yeah. Hello? Well, why not?” And what he said was, “I’ve never seen that before.” And I said, “But you have, you’ve seen it every step of the way.” His aspirations in life were to go into some form of medicine because he knew I was a doctor and then he wanted to coach and reach back and get the kids.

So what I’m gonna do is—and he’s trying to find his way—so I want to figure out how I can get him involved and how we can just kind of get him involved and just kind of move him on.  Because here’s the deal: what you see is what you will be. And if you can’t see it, you can dream it, but if you don’t see it… And sometimes it’s right in front of your face.

So, I wear scrubs. Normally I’m wearing scrubs all the time. The reason I wear scrubs—they used to make fun like, “Oh Doc, you’re wearing scrubs”—but I wear scrubs so the kids can see it. Because I didn’t see very many black doctors growing up. I didn’t know I could be it until I could see it. So, I wear scrubs all the time and they ask, “What are you? Are you a janitor? Are you a custodian? What do you do? You ain’t no doctor.” “Well, that’s what my momma say I am. I’m a doctor. If I do it, you can do it. I bet you can’t be better than me.” And I challenge and play with them like that. And my challenge is: I want you to be better than me. So that’s what motivates me is finding the next generation.

And then not just Kyron—I do want to really pull him into the fold—but all the Kyrons out there. And my job is to make them better than me so we can just sit back one day and smile while we watch them do their work. That’s what that used to be. What was yesterday, but it’s who we’re going to be tomorrow.

Nicole Hurd:  Look it. You got me so inspired because we talk about this all the time. It’s one of my favorite lines from the research I did for my dissertation. There’s a lovely line about your job is to take sparks and make them into fireworks, right? So yeah, that’s it. We’ll go make some fireworks down in Louisiana together, Eric. Absolutely game on. I’m happy to help your student, happy to help other students.

And look it. I’m so glad you said that because at the end of the day, representation does matter. Representation matters a lot. And matter of fact, I’m a white person but I’m a female, and to be honest with you, it’s amazing how many times I’m the only woman in the room. There are very few female CEOs, even in the nonprofit sector, right? And I know it. And so I try to show up in ways where people see a woman in the room and they know that that woman belongs there. I mean, again, I think this is an interesting election cycle and I wanna just shout out for a sec how important is that we see a woman of color as a vice-presidential candidate. It’s important. Representation matters, right?

And so, you’ve got me fired up. You’ve got me inspired as always, Eric. I want to say I’m right there with you. Whatever happened to us before, it is fuel to make those sparks into fireworks. And it is fuel to know that we’re in this together and it is fuel to know that there is nothing that can stop us, other than making sure that we take care of each other and push and push and push and make sure that opportunity those students earn gets achieved.

Back to my original visual, right? All of us are somebody’s dream, right? All of us are somebody’s spark. And we need everybody to hear those four words—I believe in you—so that they can reach their potential.

Eric Griggs:  And folks that are listening, we will literally knock on every door. Literally, every door.

Nicole Hurd:  We will, we will. Well on that note, I’m fired up because now we’ve got our next phase of our friendship, Eric, is we’re going to knock on every door again and this time, let’s go even bigger.

Eric Griggs: Let’s do it. Game on.

Nicole Hurd: Game on. Alright. Well, I’m going to wrap up this podcast so I will end by saying: I always say the four words we all need to hear is “I believe in you,” but Eric, you’re family so I get to say this differently. I not just believe in you, I love you.

Eric Griggs:  Absolutely. Absolutely, Nicole. I’m telling you I’m fired up. I think I just drank two pots of coffee. I’m so geeked up right now. I love you. I more than believe in you. And you are amazing. And everything that you’ve done is… I’m in awe every time. Whatever you need, but we’re about to do this. We’re about to do this. Stay tuned, folks.

Nicole Hurd:  Yeah, stay tuned, folks. And how about this to end the podcast? And get ready to join us. We’re going to do this together. So, we need others to join us. Let’s hold hands. Let’s make a huge difference.

So, alright. Love you, my friend.

Eric Griggs: Thank you for having me.

Nicole Hurd: My honor. And I’m going to sign off officially here and thank you all for spending time with us. Thank you for hearing our origin story. And I hope you do join us because this is important work. We believe in you. See you next time.