tj vaughn, unt dallas, dallas culture

Last year we recognized the remarkable accomplishments of some of Dallas/Fort Worth’s most talented and civic minded African American college students in our inaugural College Influencer Of The Year Search. The search culminated in a fun celebration which also honored our one year anniversary simultaneously.

It’s been several months since we last caught up with this talented bunch. We reached out to a few of the influencers to find out what 2016 meant to them and to get the scoop on what we could expect to see from them in 2017.


Destiny college influencer

Destiny Modeste, Paul Quinn College

What were your personal and professional highlights for 2016? What challenges did you face?

I was selected as the 2016-2017 White House Initiative on HBCUs HBCU All-Star/ Ambassador. The photo below displays some of my experiences in Washington, DC during my inauguration. I was also chosen as the top three female HBCU Students in the world. Below I am at the awards ceremony hosted by HBCU Digest.
paul quinn college, hbcu, dallas, dallas black, dallas culture
Another achievement I am proud of was conceptualizing and producing one of the best homecomings in Dallas at Paul Quinn College. Some of the highlights included the BigBang! Conference, HBCUstory Symposium, Voices That Matter Speaker Series featuring Pat Smith and the Late Night Breakfast with Prez.
The challenge I faced was keeping myself challenged. I really like to be pushed and engaged all the time so these accomplishments really helped with that.

What are your goals for 2017?

To be better than last year. I look back at my highlights from 2016 and know I can top them.

Why is it important for college students to get involved in their city?

It’s important not only for college students to be involved in there city but the world because we shape what there is to come. We are the real leaders, the real influencers and some of us don’t notice how much what we do and say matters. We can’t be afraid of our abilities, we have to utilize them and be the change we wish to see. Stay involved and achieve. Don’t be afraid of anything in this world. Anything you want to happen will happen as long as you are dedicated and put the time, work, and effort into it. The best way to do this is to figure out who you really are and go from there. The first step is asking yourself three questions: 1. Who do I want to be? 2. What do I want to say? 3. What impact will I have? And always remember you’re doing it for the greater good, not just for yourself. Have fun, relax, and live life to the fullest! 


TJ college Influencer

TJ Vaughn, UNT Dallas

IG: @tjgeesus

What were your personal and professional highlights for 2016? What challenges did you face in 2016?

I began shooting a documentary for my transition from high school to UNT Dallas. I was also honored to sit in on a meeting with the South African Ambassador (Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu) to discuss the power of education. I served as a panelist for the 11th Annual MLK Symposium. And most importantly, I drafted a business plan for my DJ company.

My biggest challenges have been managing my schedule between school, business and my personal life. I am realizing that it is OK to simple say “no” when needed.

tj vaughn, unt dallas, dallas culture

Your biggest dreams for 2017?

Build a solid clientele for my DJ company. Host community events geared towards bringing communities together. Continue to make Mommy proud :).

Why is it important for college students to get involved in their city?

College is more than just a place to obtain a degree. College is a life experience! Being involved in the city brings forth opportunities that would otherwise be completely missed. A lot of individuals have yet to find themselves when they first enroll in college. By getting out into the city, they are able to get exposed to many new experiences, new environments, and potentially meet some new great individuals. Such exposure could help students ignite their true purpose in life, allowing them to push forward as the individual they truly strive to be.

tj vaughn, dallas culture

My favorite saying is “No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, you can be anything you want to be!”

I am passionate about speaking and expanding my DJ business and look forward to any and all opportunities available. Feel free to contact me! (Email:


lorin college influencer

Lorin Washington, UT Arlington

What were your personal and professional highlights for 2016? What challenges did you face?

I competed in the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) 2nd Annual Student Simulation Competition on Climate Change.  I  was a member of the winning Regional team and Best Advocacy Group at the Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies regional competition site. My team also went on to win 2nd place in the Global Competition. I’ve always loved learning and teaching.
One of my lifelong dreams was to become a professor. In 2016 I was able to achieve that dream by becoming a college professor with Tarrant County College District. I started with TCCD in the Fall 2016 semester as an Adjunct Federal/ US Government Professor, and will be continuing with them for the Spring 2017 semester teaching Texas Government. I have immensely enjoyed my experience in the classroom and helping students learn the tools to become informed & independent thinkers.

lorin washington, dallas culture

The last significant event is very dear to my heart – I got engaged to my sweetheart, Mario Carter! We’ve known each other since we were 11 & 12, and have been dating for the last few years, getting engaged in November 2016. I’m so excited about this new season of life and preparing for a happy & healthy marriage.

Your vision for 2017?

My professional/academic goals include defending my dissertation proposal finding new ways to get involved in environmental planning & policy initiatives in the DFW area. My personal vision for 2017 is to #LiveFreely and authentically.

lorin washington, dallas culture, arlington

Why is it important for college students to get involved in their city?

As a student it can be easy to think that what we’re learning is all “theory” and not readily applicable in our lives. Activities such as volunteering, attending community meetings, and staying up to date on local current events provides context to our studies and allows us to see how our degrees fit into the bigger picture.
Getting involved where we live allows us to become active participants, instead of passive bystanders, in the positive changes we would like to take place in our neighborhoods. Being involved helps give place to our passions, and helps to be sure the voices and ideas of young people are heard. So get up, get busy, and get involved! We’re waiting on you! We need what you have to offer! 


college influencer, daisah riley

Daisah Riley, UNT

What experiences did you have in 2016? Any challenges?

 2016 was a challenging year but it taught me so much! Last year I successfully completed my Social Media Marketing internship with The Marketing Zen Group. I did some serious re-branding to my blog last year, which has set me up for success in 2017! Becoming a finalist in the 2016 College Influencer Search was definitely a highlight of my year as well.

 Your goals for 2017?

 My vision for 2017 is for me to just pursue my dreams, and live a full life. I am most excited about graduating in May from the University of North Texas with my BBA in Marketing.  This month I will be launching my podcast, Care Free Black Girl, which is  a 2016 goal that is finally coming to pass. I look forward to seeing where life takes me this year!

 Why is it important for college students to get involved in their city?

It is important because we are a powerful generation. There’s a reason brands want to know what we think, and why we set the standard for what’s “cool”. We are an influential group. Being involved in your city as a college student allows you to make well-informed decisions, use your influence to help your peers get involved civically, and provide a fresh perspective on solutions to making your community a better place to live in.


Nariana college influencer

Nariana Sands, SMU

Your biggest achievements in 2016? Your challenges?

I graduated in May 2016 from Southern Methodist University (SMU) with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science!  This was the greatest moment of my year, being a culmination of my diligent work for the past 4 years. I felt great pride in my accomplishment, but I also felt an obligation to continue my education and to positively represent Black engineers on campus since we are few.

In May I was appointed as the Technical Outreach and Community Help (TORCH) Chair for Region 5 of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).  A huge step from my chapter position, I matured as a leader and learned how to organize regional community service events and how to collaborate remotely.

Lastly, I completed my first semester of graduate school at SMU.  Since I’m in the Lyle 4+1 Program, I expect to graduate in May 2017 with my Master of Science in Software Engineering.  Just one year!

The greatest challenge of the year was overcoming the feeling of being burned out.  It’s difficult to find motivation to continue school when all you want to do is relax!  Thankfully, my Christmas and New Year have been some of the most enjoyable, well-deserved days with loved ones.

nariana sands, smu, dallas culture

Your dreams for 2017?

I expect to graduate with my Master of Science in May 2017.  I also want to begin a full-time position in the Fall as a Software Developer.  

Since I normally work during the summer, my personal dream is to spend this summer traveling and attending anime conventions. My biggest personal goal is to attend San Diego Comic Con for the first time!

Why is it important for college students to get involved in their city?

I believe that the most beneficial involvement or activism is done at home.  As a college student, I have access to the most up-to-date knowledge and technology.  I’ve learned how to assess, analyze, and solve problems for the last four years.  As a Dallas resident for over 20 years, I understand this city’s issues.  Therefore, I am a catalyst for change in this city because this city is what I know best.  Many people who decide to get involved elsewhere don’t understand the people, the culture, or the city’s infrastructure and produce generic, inefficient solutions.  It’s important for college students to also know the city in order to grow the city.

My advice for other students is to take time to do things that you enjoy.  Be a little selfish and make “me” time.  It’s refreshing and a way to show yourself much-needed love!

nariana sands, smu, dallas, culture

SMU is hosting the NSBE Texas Zone Spring Meeting on Saturday, February 18.  This meeting will be a fantastic way to meet other aspiring engineers and to jump start the year!  If you are a college student in the area and are interested in engineering or learning more about NSBE, contact me at 

 Influencer custom photography: Rod Jones

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