First Generation, next chapter

Kayla Sullers has always believed in jumping into life full-force and building new experiences to help create a better future.
The mass communications major isn’t sure what exactly lies ahead in her future as she jumps into the next phase of her life after Thursday’s graduation ceremonies, but she said she does know that Grambling State University has helped prepare her whatever that might be.
Sullers’ journey to Grambling came differently than many of those by her fellow graduates.
“I’m not a legacy or anything like that,” Sullers said. “My high school counselor was a Grambling graduate and the Chicago Football Classic was going on where Grambling played Clark-Atlanta. The GSU Office of Admission went and recruited at three different high schools in Chicago and mine was one of them. Grambling was the first HBCU to accept me there on site. I just heard so much about the university, and I went to a job fair and the football game and saw all the energy and spirit there and just fell in love with it.”
“So I’m a first generation college student — a first generation everything. I don’t come from a background with a wealthy family so I had to make things happen on my own.”
And that included arranging a bus trip to travel to Grambling for a High School Day event at GSU.
“I was 17 years old and took it upon myself to hop on a bus and take a 22-hour bus ride by myself to visit Grambling. I fell in love literally with everyone from the administrators to the staff and teachers and the students here,” Sullers said. “I knew right away that Grambling would be the perfect home for me for the next four years. And it played back perfectly. It was the best decision I could have ever made.”
After she graduates, Sullers said she will go back to Chicago and continue looking for opportunities to extend her career in communications in whatever direction that takes her.
“I’ve been working as a cinematographer and I probably would like to find something in that area where I’ve already been able to show people what I can do.”
Sullers has done so working in the camera department for the STARZ crime drama series “Power Book IV: Force,” and on the camera and production team for FOX TV’s final season of “Empire.”
“Those were digital utility jobs, which is basically entry-level work in cinematography,” Sullers said. “Those were very hands-on jobs and taught me that you have to be willing to learn every day. You have to be open-minded, make sacrifices and even be vulnerable by opening yourself up to learning new things. Being open-minded is the key. Because no single day on a set will be the same as the previous one. You learn to expect the unexpected. There’s always something new that can happen. Every day in that field has been a new learning day.”
Sullers believes the adaptability she’s learned in her previous work will help her in the near future.
“I always tell people you have to be able to adapt to new surroundings, new situations and dealing with new people and personalities,” Sullers said. “And on top of that, you’re still constantly learning new skills to add to the skill set you’ve already built for yourself."
“It’s about work ethic,” Sullers continued. “You have to be hard-working and it's important to put yourself in a healthy work environment. The most important thing is to have the mindset that you’re willing to do what it takes to make anything happen.”
Sullers said working with big names like Van Peebles and the cast of “Empire” is something that helped her grow in her career.
“I’ve worked with a lot of great people in great environments where I was able to see actors like Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard in their element — their natural environment,” Sullers said. “I was able to see who they are not only as artists, but as people, too. And you learn things about the career, and life in general, in that aspect as well.”
And as she prepares to jump into the “real world,” Sullers said she will be bringing a part of GSU along with her.
“Grambling has taught me to always be willing to meet new people and create new platforms for yourself,” Sullers said. “It’s taught me you have to be willing to work 10 times harder than everyone else in order to create new opportunities for yourself.”
Sullers said networking is key because you never know who you may be sitting next to, who your classmate may be and what great possibilities might be ahead just from getting to know new people.
“That’s probably the biggest ‘non-classroom’ thing I’ll be taking with me from going to college at Grambling."

Grambling State University senior Kayla Sullers gears up for the next chapter and credits GSU for the preparedness.