LaTavia Rollinson, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, does it all. Having gone to Northside High School, Rollinson decided to attend UAFS because it was nearby.
“It’s close to home, and it would have been cheaper than going to anywhere else,” Rollinson said. “And I had moved out after I graduated high school, so I didn’t want to pick up and leave.”
19-year-old Rollinson works full time as a manager at Taco Bell. She also works at a local daycare, taking care of children between the ages of 8 months and 1 year.
However, she doesn’t let being a full-time student and employee stop her from being involved not only on the UAFS campus but in the Fort Smith community as well.
“I’m the secretary of BSA, Black Student Association,” Rollinson explained. “I’m a member of the Pom Squad, for two years now. This is my first year [in BSA].”
An average day for Rollinson is twelve hours of almost nonstop activity.
“With Pom Squad we have all morning practices,” Rollinson said. “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we’re up at 5:30 practicing. We get out at 7:30, and then I have class at 8. I have back-to-back classes. I have a break sometimes in between [classes] or sometimes in between [classes and] going to work so I can get some school work done.”
Rollinson isn’t done after classes either. She still goes to work.
“And then I’ll have a break and go to work at 3,” Rollinson said. “I’ll do 3 to 8, but sometimes I have to stay until 9. They try to get to get me out at 8 though, because on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have to get up at 5 for practice.”
Not only does Rollinson make time for school, work, and cheerleading, she also choreographs for children’s dance teams and local schools.
“I have a little girls’ group that ranges from kindergarten to sixth grade at Jeffrey’s Boys & Girls Club,” Rollinson said. “And I also choreograph for Kimmons Junior High for their dance and cheer teams. I’m working on the cheer team right now. We actually have practice [later this week].”
When asked about what she was learning as a college student, Rollinson noted that diversity and teamwork are at the top of the list.
“I’m learning diversity,” Rollinson explained. “You have to accept people for who they are, and that’s something I’ve been learning my whole entire life. Secondly, we learn how to work as a team. We learn leadership skills because we do work out in the community and we do different things. [BSA is] getting ready for our Black History Month program in February.”
“With dance team, we’re getting ready for competition,” Rollinson said. “We’re actually going to Dallas, Texas. I do have to take off work for those days, so I miss days there. But I’m also a dance choreographer, and they pay me for that. So it kind of balances out.”
She summed up what her college experience has taught her in four words: “Time management is crazy.”
However, Rollinson doesn’t let her full calendar curb her enthusiasm. Pom Squad won third place in competition last year, and she’s been encouraged to extend that enthusiasm to her other teams.
“It was pretty great,” Rollinson said. “I liked it because it was my first competition ever. I didn’t know what to expect. It was a great experience. I loved it. So I’m actually taking Kimmons to competition this year. I’m taking them to Tulsa in April.”
Rollinson explains that, because UAFS is a smaller school, she feels like she can make a bigger difference.
“It’s true,” she said. “Some of my girls right now are like, ‘Oh, so you’re doing dance, and you’re going to college, and you’re dancing there? Wow!’ So they see what you’re doing, and they want to go above and beyond what you did. […] Always think like that. Go above. […] Show them you can do whatever you put your mind to; you don’t have to do just one thing.”
Rollinson may seem extremely busy, but she loves it all.
“Most of them think that just because you do the Pom Squad you can’t do the other activities on the side,” she explained. “Pom is a full-time job. You do have to be dedicated and put everything into it.”
But Rollinson believes you can have it all, and she wants those who see her to believe so as well.
“Like at the Boys & Girls Club,” she said. “I think if people show that you can make a difference, it helps. Coming into college is like another ball game [for them]. It helps when they have people in front of them trying to be an inspiration or role model to them.”
Rollinson said that being a role model is her favorite form of involvement. She explained that wherever she is involved, she can make a make an impact.
“I am a role model for my little girls and my junior high girls,” she explained. “I am also taking over an organization called Smart Girls for the Boys and Girls Club. We get different ages to come together so they can learn leadership. And with BSA and them going together, it shows me that being in this organization […] is a thing we do to help the community. Maybe I can get my little girls involved.”
True to form, Rollinson’s involvement doesn’t stop there. She wants to include as many people in the community as possible.
“Along with UAFS,” she went on, “I try to get the Pom Squad involved with things we do with BSA. For Black History Month, I have my little girls coming to dance.”
Without hesitation, Rollinson credits her determination to her mother.
“My mom did a great job,” she said. “She was a single mom. She was always the one to push us to do better than she did. She gave us freedom. We had to get things done, and we had free time, but she made sure we got [our things] done [first]. I thank her for that.”
Rollinson went on to say that her mother was the one who got her involved with the dance team at the Boys & Girls Club, and she believes that her different background contributes to the increasing diversity of the Pom Squad.
“I started dancing [there] when I was 6,” Rollinson said. “So I think that shows that the Pom Squad wants to be a more diverse squad. Most of them are studio dancers. I never had an opportunity to do studio dancing because it was too expensive. We’ve had people come up and say that they were happy to have different races in the Pom Squad. They just stopped us out of nowhere. Hopefully next year they will have more of a range of diversity.”
Rollinson is majoring in elementary education, a major which requires participation in an internship as a senior. She hopes to intern at Spradling Elementary, the school she attended as a child, in an effort to give back to the school that first gave to her.
“I am [looking forward to it],” Rollinson said when asked about her future. “I do want to stay in Fort Smith after I graduate so I can give back to the community I came from. […] I will eventually leave Fort Smith because there are other children to give back to in other places, too. I will come back because it’s my home town. Love your hometown.”
Her goals for the future are as varied and involved as her current activities.
“I may want a dance studio,” she contemplated. “My dance coach in junior high wants me to come back to Kimmons and teach there. I might come back and be an assistant for her.”