Here is just a partial list:
- Inaugural Piedmont Scholar.
- Inaugural member of President Jim Ryan’s Student Advisory Council.
- Orientation leader.
- Co-director, Community Engagement Agency, UVA Student Council.
- Peer advisor, Office of African-American Affairs.
- Member, Fourth Year Trustees.
And don’t forget being a first-generation student, one who is about to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the School of Education and Human Development.
Somehow, Dennis managed to squeeze even more activity into his final semester at UVA. This spring he returned to his childhood grade school, Burnley-Moran Elementary School, to student teach full-time.
He looked right at home in the hallways of his old school one day in February, where his third-graders were finishing up a book club reading “The Iron Robot.”
Nine-year old Genady Muguma, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he likes having Dennis as a teacher because he helps him with writing and math. Dennis often can be found sitting at a low table in the back of the classroom, quietly helping students with their studies. Lead teacher Mary Johnson said Muguma often gravitates to that table.
“I feel like for him to see another person that looks like him is really important,” she said. “His family was in a pretty difficult situation before they came to the United States, so for him to see another African American male in a role where he’s used to seeing people that look like me all the time, and he’s like, ‘Wow, I can go to him for help, too. And he’s in this class and he’s being respected just like the teacher in this classroom’ – I think is really powerful for him.”
This past year, Dennis also helped another student, this one at UVA. Nate Assefa is a first-year scholar who was planning to reach out to the Office of African-American Affairs to get connected with a mentor. But Dennis beat him to the punch, emailing him first to see if he could help.