Q. Why elementary education? How did you get on this path?
A. Well, my dad is a teacher and so, I saw how he influences a lot of kids’ lives back home where I come from and I see how big of an impact he’s made within the community and people coming back are always saying, “Oh, your dad really helped me out. Listen to what he has to say. He’s a great guy.” And it made me want to follow in his footsteps and do the things that he’s done in his life and try to carry that on.
Q. How was it coming to Northland College?
A. I transferred here from St. John’s University in Minnesota. When I first got to Northland it was different to say the least. I was coming from a larger school, it was really different coming from a school of about four thousand kids to six hundred kids. . . . When I first got here, I just thought, “Oh, I’ll play basketball, and that would be it, I would play basketball and go to class.” And shortly after, I figured out that it wasn’t going to work out like that and I wasn’t going to have a good time doing that. And so I had to branch out and meet new people. Luckily my best friend who went to high school with me, he went here as well, and so that was kind of the stepping stone for me being able to get comfortable at Northland college.
Q. How about getting comfortable with rural life?
A. It’s been a 360-degree turn, definitely. Coming from the Twin Cities area, I’ve been a city kid all my life and I’ve never been in touch with the outdoors. I never had gone kayaking and had never gone canoeing, never thought about camping or anything like that. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have the opportunities to do that back home and coming here and meeting [Professor] Clayton Russell and him giving me the opportunities to experience those things —well, those are really cool. It’s different and it’s something that I’ve never done before but it’s fun and it’s helped me grow as a person. Because you can experience one side, you can experience the city life and then you can experience the greater outdoors and it kind of molds you as a person and makes you a well-rounded person. . . .
Before I reached Ashland, I had never seen Lake Superior, or anything as magnificent as Lake Superior. I feel as if I’ve become—it sounds cliché—but, one with the lake. And I really do enjoy it. Every time I go past it, it just– it’s one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life and so I can say coming from an urban area, never seeing anything like that through the outdoors, it’s really shaped me and created a lot of experiences.
Q. Sounds like faculty helped shape your experience.
A. Honestly, every staff or professor that I ran into. They look at you as a person that you are, and I really do appreciate that. They want to know what kind of story you have and what makes you, you. And I mean that goes from the top: President Miller to the lady who cleans Memorial. I mean, President Miller at a basketball game will walk up to my parents and say, “Oh, Harrison is a great guy.” It’s just the little things like that that you really do appreciate. A president of a school usually, he could overlook all the students– oh okay. Well, they’re just playing and they want you to go to class and everything, but it seemed like they really do care. I mean, Clayton Russell for example. One of the best guys I ever met and he’s probably the biggest impact that I can remember education having on me. It’s just really genuine here.
Q. Talk about Professor Russell’s impact.
A. He wrote an essay, “Be the Difference, that Makes a Difference,” and talked about how can you make an impact within your community or wherever you are, honestly. And so I wanted to make a presentation of me being in Ashland and take it back to my community in the Minneapolis and Twin Cities area. And share it with kids who are like me and showing them that a person from whatever circumstances, a person who looks like them can go to college and be successful and enjoy it while experiencing the things in life. And so I can only appreciate Clayton Russell’s essay. He says that I was the person to make the difference back home to the few students that I did reach, but honestly, Clayton Russell was the one to make a difference in my life. And so, basically planning to see what that means and we just branched it out from there.
Q. What is about working with young people.
A. I just like being able to connect with students and the youth, you know. Just having an impact would be nice. You don’t have to touch every student out there. I don’t think every student will be able to be reached by you specifically, but if you can make a difference in two to three, I think that’s a good stepping stone right there to branch from there. I mean, the youth are the future leaders and someone looked at me and probably looked at others and was like, “Well, they’re the future of our country.” So, if I could make an impact on them that would be a great thing. I do it to see the smile on their faces, you know? That’s to say I enjoy it every day. I just started being in the classrooms, and every day you hear, “Mr. Lucas! Mr. Lucas! How’s your day going? How’d your weekend go?” And that brings a smile to my face, and I think it brings joy to them, and so just the connection and being able to connect with kids and people in general, you know?
Q. What pushes you to succeed?
A. What fuels me is there’s just not a lot of positive male role models in the African-American community. And I kind of just look at myself as trying to be separating myself and try to be a positive male role model that you can look at, you know? There’s a lot of people who—you know, they play sports, play basketball, they’re musicians and what not. And yeah, they’re African-American, but I want the kids and people to see, well, here’s an everyday guy and he’s doing positives in our community. And that’s kind of what’s always been my fuel to do greater good in the world. That would be my thing.