Senior encourages non-traditional leaders

Author: Arts and Letters


Courage, faith and determination have carried senior Saderia Nicole Hooks of Miami to where she is today, and now it’s her dream to teach other students how to realize their full potential.

Hooks, a graduate of a predominantly black high school, is the first person in her family and from her high school to attend Notre Dame. Although she always had the full support of her family, some in her hometown discouraged her from her “lofty dream” of attending Notre Dame.

Now an Africana studies major with a minor in theology the only student on campus with that unique combination Hooks is using each to encourage and support African-American students on campus and in local schools. She serves as the program director for Lead ND, which works to curb educational inequity by facilitating a weekly after-school program for 7th and 8th grade “non-traditional” leaders in South Bend schools.

“Most after-school activities have nothing to do with leadership,” she said. “Our theme is ‘remixing leadership’ by encouraging students who may not be at the head of their class, involved in student government or captain of their sports team. Everyone has leadership qualities. You just have to find them and nurture them, and that’s what we do.”

Also leading the charge to establish a Black Student Association (BSA) at Notre Dame to provide unity for the African-American community on campus, Hooks has worked with a team of students for the past three years to design the BSA and recently submitted a proposal for club status, including the group’s constitution and 10-year plan.

Clearly one who knows how to apply her gifts, Hooks hasn’t always been so certain in her academic direction. Originally a business student, she found her true calling her sophomore year. After admitting that studying numbers and spreadsheets “wasn’t helping me expand and grow as a person,” she landed in a class that sparked her interest and, ultimately, changed her life.

“I absolutely loved ‘Faith and the African-American Experience’ with Professor Hugh Page (Walter Associate Professor of Theology and dean of First Year of Studies),” Hooks said. “I noticed a drastic change in the way I approached this class. It just fit with my life, having grown up in a very education-focused household dedicated to God.”

Hooks switched gears and began to flourish in Africana studies, which offers an interdisciplinary curriculum in which undergraduates study the African-American experience; the histories, literatures, political systems, arts, economies and religions of the African continent; and the African Diaspora – the global dispersion of people of African descent.

“It has provided a huge expansion of my mind as a black person,” Hooks said. “I particularly enjoyed a social movements class in which we studied a small, isolated community of Afro-Bolivians that had maintained much of the African culture living high in the mountains of South America. It helped me realize I have a connection to other parts of the world, and a big part of my Notre Dame experience has been meeting people from all around the world who have different views from me, but yet are similar in so many ways.”

Seeking challenge is second nature to Hooks, who, in the interest of theology, is taking Latin, rather than pursuing Spanish, which she can speak conversationally. She also is interested in Greek and Roman epic poetry and recently shared a portion of “The Iliad” for “The Sound of Classics” all-day read-a-thon of Arabic, Greek and Latin Classics.

“Saderia is never without a book,” said Richard Pierce, chair of Africana studies and Hooks’ advisor. “When I make a reference to an author in class, she goes out and buys the book. Also, I think the sense of obligation she feels to her community fits with the nature of our department, which is to encourage outreach and incorporate our students with the community.”

Hooks has, in fact, mapped out the next decade of her life in service to students much like herself.

“I want to spend at least 10 years teaching and design curriculum for students that teaches them how to think, not just take a test,” she said. “Someday I would like to work in policymaking for the Department of Education.”

She recently was accepted to Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and, beginning in August, will teach fourth grade in Jacksonville, Fla., at St. Pius V, a predominantly and traditionally black Catholic elementary school.

In the meantime, Hooks is content to leave her legacy at and around Notre Dame.

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at on April 04, 2008.