By Hannah Newman
SENIOR music production major Yusef Collins-Bryant has used the resources available to him to make college a steady foundation for the rest of his life.
Although he was accepted into the Berklee College of Music, the school did not provide Collins-Bryant with enough funds to attend. He then looked into Rider, which had been his first college acceptance.
His transition into college was altered due to the protocols of COVID-19, but Collins-Bryant did not let it deter him from collecting opportunities to grow and pursuing his dreams early on.
COVID-19 restricted hands-on experiences in his major, making it difficult to adjust to having an ensemble as an online class.
His previous major upon arriving at college, popular music studies, was cut prompting him to find something else that can support his drive toward success.
Living in Kroner Hall gave him exposure to sacred music at Westminster Choir College and provoked his involvement within the school’s community.
“Westminster, sacred music, all of those things have been such unique experiences for me that I would never give up, even though I had to shelve them. Those people mean the world to me,” said Collins-Bryant.
Collins-Bryant was also the last person to enroll in the sacred music certificate program before it was cut.
He said, “I wanted to combine my interests in African American studies with my interest in music, and they offered an Urban Church concentration course before being cut.”
In pursuit of learning more about and sharing his heritage, Collins-Bryant was also the first person to minor in African American Studies.
“We needed to diversify the Rider dollar, we needed cultural studies, and I myself wanted to learn more about my culture,” said Collins-Bryant.
Although Collins-Bryant was able to find his way through the obstacles of his major, the shift in discipline is something that still affects him.
“It still is a bit of an internal struggle for me, which is why I want to pursue my masters,” said Collins-Bryant.
He filled the beginning of his college career quickly as he joined the Multicultural Student Leadership Institute through the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
Pamela Pruitt, the former director of the Center of Diversity and Inclusion, encouraged him to run for class council which is when his desire for involvement took flight.
Collins-Bryant was also a community assistant, an orientation leader and a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
“Yusef’s kind spirit and selfless demeanor are attributes that have bettered not only the organizations he’s been involved in, like [Sigma Phi Epsilon] and [Student Government Association], but the wider community as well,” said former SGA President Andrew Bernstein, ’23. “He is one of the few people out there whose mission is to lift others up, making his presence and impact all the more meaningful.”
After becoming a brother to the fraternity, Collins-Bryant now stands as a new member educator as well as the diversity and inclusion chair.
Collins-Bryant was a prior recipient of the Balanced Man Scholarship granted by the fraternity to well-rounded, high-grade earning students.
Rider alum Jordan Allen, ’23 said, “Yusef is one of those people you meet whose energy is just infectious. He is someone that will take on a problem head on and set a path for those who come after him. He is an inspiration to those around him, always ready to provide love and support to those who need it most, even when he may not have that energy to give up. I am proud to call him my little brother.”
He was granted a choir scholarship to Conclave, a national conference for his fraternity that he attended during the summer of 2023.
Cranberry Court was something that fascinated Collins-Bryant and gave him the passion to participate when he was nominated as a senior.
Collins-Bryant was thrilled to find himself standing with the other candidates that he knew and was happy to be experiencing the memory with them.
“When she called my name I didn’t know how to react,” said Collins-Bryant.
As Collins-Bryant looks back to the moment when he decided where to go for college, he felt like he is exactly where he was meant to be.
“It’s so crazy to me that I’m living this dream that I had before I knew I would come here and before I wanted to come here,” said Collins-Bryant.