Tariji Gourdine and her Unfinished Business With Morgan

Blanca Assie, Staff Writer

“It was God’s plan,” said Tariji Gourdine, a 43-year-old and returning student, who is finally finishing what she started in 1992 by graduating on May 19 as an applied liberal studies major in the School of Liberal Arts.

It was in 1992 that Gourdine, 16 at the time, initially started at Morgan State University as a political science major.

She was a dancer for Shyhiem, a member of the hip-hop group the Wu-Tang clan and also her younger brother. But she chose to attend school instead.

After four years in school, Gourdine left Morgan on the edge of her senior year in 1995 to attend the New York State Corrections Academy.

“I made a choice to go into corrections. I was in school to earn a degree and get a career, and I was offered a career, so I said let me take the career,” said Gourdine.

She spent 20 years as an officer in the department of corrections and retired in 2015.

After retiring at age of 41, Gourdine registered for classes in the fall of 2017 at the College of Staten Island until she learned about the applied study program at Morgan, where she could come back and finish her degree.

“In the beginning of spring of 2018 I returned to Morgan and on May 19, I am finishing what I started years ago [which] is so fulfilling, because… I felt incomplete and wanted to do it at Morgan.”

“Going to another school,” said Gourdine, “I felt like a student in someone else school. My heart was here at Morgan, so being able to finish here makes me extremely happy.”

The feeling of accomplishment also came with the struggles of managing school and life and adapting to the new and modern way of education.

Gourdine had four daughters and married Kangol Kid from the legendary rap group Untouchable Force Organization (UTFO), best known for the song, Roxanne, Roxanne.

“I had to be a mother and a wife and a student,” she said.

“When I was in school we didn’t have computers, so blackboard and such, was unheard of. I learned I could take online classes, so I took 18 credits from home, but then, I had to do the African Diaspora class on campus. So, I drove down every Wednesday [from New York] to come to class. Then, I felt a little strange, like do I look old in class.”

But the challenges were ephemeral with the support system that Gourdine has.

“My children are great motivators, they consistently told me you can do it. My husband is amazing; he was home playing mister mom. My sister was down here with me the majority of the time. I have an amazing support team like my parents.”

As Gourdine closes a chapter in her life, she is ready to open a new one by going into substituting teaching.

Twenty years into the department of corrections gave her the opportunity to learn to identify immediately what a kid is struggling with. So, she wants to save them before they get into the department.

“I want to go a step before jail, trying to catch them when they are teenagers in schools or junior high school where I can see them transitioning.”

Although it is well known that school can be challenging, as people get older, it becomes more demanding because they have to deal with more responsibilities other than school.

“I think school at this age is more interesting. Our minds are more opened to the knowledge. We want to learn at this point. When you are my age, you are doing this for yourself, … You are like wow, I didn’t know that, I missed that, and then you go home, and you talk and teach about it.”

“For those who are younger, there is nothing you cannot do. If it can be taught, then you can do it. There is nothing in the world a person cannot do no matter who they are.”

As she continues her journey, Gourdine can be followed @richtwin on Instagram and her upcoming reality show “We are the Joneses” on BetHer.