The Lasting Effects of George Floyd on Campus
21 months have passed since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, just a couple miles from North Central University’s campus, where his funeral was held. Since that time, North Central has established the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship for students of color, and in 2021, the annual George Floyd Jr. Memorial Holiday Classic, a tournament featuring inner-city high school basketball teams.
For many students on campus, the 2021 fall semester was a refreshing change from the challenges of the past two years. Grace Renstrom, director of the Black Student Union at NCU, said in an interview that the verdict of Derek Chauvin’s trial in April served as a turning point for the student leaders. “For all of us, this is probably the healthiest we have started a [school] year.”
Rolando Ruiz, winner of the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship for the 2021-2022 school year, said the scholarship changed his life. Ruiz did not expect to even get accepted into NCU because of his past struggles with drugs and alcohol.
After completing the MN Teen Challenge and entering college as a 31-year-old business marketing major, Ruiz is enjoying his classes and thanking God for the opportunity. “It’s unique how the bad situation that happened with George Floyd changed the trajectory of so many lives, including mine,” he said.
Renstrom gave some insight into being a student leader during the months following Floyd’s death. “Waking up and being like, okay, am I a student? Am I an activist? Am I a therapist? Am I a preacher? Am I a healer?… What is the student body and staff demanding of me today?”
After reflecting on her experience at NCU since Floyd’s death, Renstrom summarized her thoughts––“We have improved, but we could do better.”