Freshman Kayode Small: From Trinidad to L.A. to Tuscaloosa
“I can speak like this,” says freshman Kayode Small, demonstrating his impressive ability to sound like someone from somewhere in the United States. When he relaxes, his voice becomes a song. The words ebb and flow like the waves of the Caribbean Sea he played in as a child in The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Yet, when asked where he is from, Kayode often answers, “L.A.,” which is where he completed his last two years of high school.
While moving from the island of Trinidad to Los Angeles to Tuscaloosa might appear to be the perfect recipe for culture shock, Kayode transitions well. Although Stillman’s magnolias may not look like Caribbean palm trees, and L.A.’s population is about three times the population of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago combined, Kayode has found that all three places are surprisingly similar.
“My dad left Trindad and came to the United States when I was five. He was trying to give me a better opportunity in life, but my mom was against the idea so we remained in Trinidad. Eventually, when I was fifteen, I made the decision to come here with my dad. Most people in my neighborhood in L.A. were in gangs. A month before I came, someone was shot right in front of our apartment,” says Kayode. “On my way to the grocery store in L.A. one day, a lady was handing out flyers about a charter school down the street. The school was very strict. If you messed up, you were kicked out. It was very good. Like Stillman, it was small and friendly. And Stillman is a lot like Trinidad. It’s kind of secluded and not fast paced.”
Through all of Kayode’s transitions, what has remained most constant is his value system. Never once did he contemplate joining a gang. In fact, his academic credentials were so impressive that he was awarded a full scholarship to Stillman. “The way my mom and dad raised me, getting into trouble was never an option,” he says.
He is the first in his family to go to college and, when he finishes, he hope to either return to L.A. to help improve the gang-infested area he lived in, or possibly return to Trinidad and “start a family business.” In the meantime, he says he is “enjoying the southern hospitality” at Stillman.
“Sometimes people don’t understand me and they ask me to repeat what I say, but they enjoy hearing me speak,” he smiles. “I meet a lot of people because of my accent.”
Email to Friend
Fill in the form below to send this campus news to a friend: