A bright soul in a dark place. A college cheerleader full of spirit, full of hope, no worries other than nailing the cheer routines and every college class test. But April-Autumn Jenkins never knew that she would face the test of power, physical power, a male college athlete who would soon change her life forever. Jenkins became a victim of sexual assault, and nobody believed her story. Her life was ripped apart with a resulting, unplanned child, alcoholism, and a loss of mind, literally. But today, this Duke University Women's Center's therapist and motivational speaker is speaking out. She is saving others because "Huston-Tillotson saved me." She is on a mission to lift other victims, primarily black girls, out of their dark places.
Huston-Tillotson University is one of the black colleges supported by the Black College Fund which provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities.
"It's so interesting. God is such a wonderful person. Huston-Tillotson is a part of my story. HT saved me," Jenkins emphasized.
With growing up in predominantly white schools, Jenkins did not know what to expect on a black college campus.
"But when I stepped onto this campus, it was love," Jenkins reminisced. "How can I help you? What can I do for you?" These were her constant greetings.
"They wrapped their arms around me," just as her professors did. One, in particular, Dr. Rosalee Martin, is a professor that she will never forget.
Jenkins started her journey at Huston-Tillotson where she graduated with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology. She then earned her master's (cum laude) in social work from North Carolina State University. Professionally, she did a two-year stint at Texas A&M University where she opened an office for prevention and education initiatives.
After Texas A&M, Jenkins knew that it was time to branch out on her own. Soon enough, the idea emerged for her brand to be called Sparks, a verb that leads her to ask her crowds, "What will April Autumn spark for you?"
"When you have purpose, but don't have the education or experience to pull it off, you must start with the education. I had to get HT under my belt," she said.
Jenkins finds that she must balance her faith and self-care. "I am rooted and grounded in God…like, that's my boy," she said with laughing confidence.
Despite her dark days her past experience, having children of her own, and working around children, she found that she needed a delicate balance with this work. But she is inspired by every moment together.
When reflecting on her journey to date and the impact that she made along the way, she feels that she is planting seeds to move people forward.
For all the tears she lost, and for all the strength she gained, she knows that she is living a purpose-driven life.
"This is my purpose. I'm operating in my purpose. When I know that this is something God is pleased with, then I'm good."
Huston-Tillotson University website
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Black College Fund provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities at 11 United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Black College Fund apportionment at 100 percent.