Devin Lemon started college out of state, but he felt something was missing. When he came home to South Carolina, he found his sense of belonging in the University of South Carolina criminal justice program.
Lemon, who is from Columbia, transferred to UofSC in 2019. This year, he’s one of more than 400 graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences.
"I quickly learned that it wasn't just the courses and layout I liked, but that I would fall in love with the department's instructors," he says.
Lemon knew he wanted to go into a field that cultivated a sense of purpose in youth. He believes that mentors are the key to turning around at-risk youth and helping them make more positive choices in life. This led him to look to the criminal justice program.
"I have a passion for assisting at-risk youth and providing intervention services that provide information and resources for job-readiness, academics, extracurriculars," Lemon says. "In efforts to steer youth back on the path of self-sufficiency as they advance from childhood to adulthood."
One highlight of his time at UofSC was the Adolescent Mentoring program led by UofSC professor Tia Andersen. The mentoring class offered him the opportunity to work with youth at the Lexington School District Two’s disciplinary alternative schools.
The UofSC student mentors are trained in effective methods of intervention to work with their mentees. Lemon says this was his favorite class, and Dr. Andersen was one of his most influential professors.
Andersen says Lemon sets a wonderful example. "He has excelled academically, all while volunteering and working with children in the community to mentor and help them set prosocial goals," she says.
I can confidently say that I am leaving with the knowledge necessary to not only pursue a master's but to participate in the community.
Lemon already has a strong connection to South Carolina but had not explored UofSC before going to school out of state. After spending three years in Alabama, his biggest challenge was relearning his hometown again.
"The fact that I came during the Spring only made the transferring process more difficult," he says. "Seeing that while most students who enroll for Fall get an entire summer to learn the campus, I had about a month to get acquainted with the nooks and crannies of UofSC campus."
Before transferring to South Carolina, he did not feel challenged enough. However, after a year in the program, Lemon says he is most proud of his "academic comeback."
"I was simply just breezing through classes, and I really didn't feel challenged or motivated. However, when I came to UofSC, my spark had been relit," he says. "Ever since then, my GPA has greatly prospered."
Outside of the classroom, Lemon mentors children of military parents at Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army Training Center base located in Columbia, South Carolina.
After graduation, Lemon will apply to a few graduate schools for a master's degree in social work.
He says, "I can confidently say that I am leaving with the knowledge necessary to not only pursue a master's but to participate in the community."