Photo of LaTia Jefferson

LaTia Jefferson '13: Engaging the World Around You

LaTia Jefferson attended an all-girls college because she wanted to challenge herself.

“I don’t like girls,” the 19-year-old said, matter-of-factly. “Too much drama. I thought maybe if I went to an all-women’s college, I’d learn to deal with them. It didn’t work out. The culture didn’t fit me.”

So the Belleville junior transferred to McKendree University, where she has been engaged with her three great loves – math, art and sports – ever since. She is majoring in computational science and mathematics.

“I’m hoping to go into public relations or engineering,” she said. “Or architecture. That way, I could combine art and math. So many possibilities jump out at me.”

Not the least of which is jumping itself. The outgoing teenager – who won the 2009 Illinois High School Association triple jump title while attending Belleville Township High School East – is now a member of McKendree’s track team.

"I could be ... doing something productive instead of just standing around."

“I’m only an outdoor person if I have something to do,” LaTia explained. “I don’t like to be outside just to be outside. When I was in grade school, I liked organized sports but I hated recess. I thought, ‘I could be in the library reading and doing something productive instead of just standing around.’”

That never-stay-idle attitude has served LaTia well. One summer, she visited France on a shoestring budget while taking part in the International Student Exchange Program. If she didn’t have money for cab fare, she just put on her walking shoes.

“When you go abroad and don’t have a lot of money, you see places you’d probably not see otherwise. I didn’t go to the best restaurants but I met some nice people. Families would offer to feed me dinner. I’d walk 15 minutes to the nearest place to buy cheap food.”

“France was fantastic,” she added. “I got to see some amazing things. I got to travel around Europe a little bit. I went to Switzerland.”

Then she came home and went to the show.

“Before I left for France, I was an extra in ‘Big Momma’s House 3’,” she said, proudly. She appeared briefly in the promotional trailer for the film, released in February 2011. “They show me eating fruit salad.”

LaTia also worked as a research assistant on “Footsteps,” a documentary about the African-American community in Georgia.

"If the world is her oyster, LaTia will fall asleep stringing pearls."

“I always have major goals,” she said of how she gets everything accomplished. “I used to have a little black book. I’d write out my schedule. My meetings and homework. There was one week that was almost orange for all the meetings I had.

“My sister was laughing at me because I didn’t have time to see her. I said, ‘You need to let me know so I can fit you into my schedule.’ That didn’t go over too well.”


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