2019 Tillman Scholar

Jabulani Mzee

Amherst College
B.A., Black Studies

“Serving my country gave me the confidence to reach higher. I want to ensure that people from all backgrounds have the access, and opportunity, to reach their potential.”


Realizing the trajectory of his life was pointed downwards, Jabulani knew he had to find a way out. On the heels of being expelled from school, he decided to join the Army as an infantryman, where his life began to change.

After returning from a deployment with the 82nd Airborne Division, his perspective had expanded. This unique view of the world outside of America showed him that he had a lot to be grateful for. His fellow countrymen proved that his preconceived notions he’d held before service were far from true. Being one of not even a handful of African Americans in his unit, he had built bonds and brotherhoods with people he’d never imagine himself befriending.

Seeing the significant difference the military made in his life, Jabulani looked to make a difference of his own. He tutored and advised students at his local community college, as well as in his hometown. His intent was sound, but he soon realized they shared the same issues he once endured: hunger, neglect and abuse. “The problem was much deeper than educational deficiencies,” he thought. He would have to seek a larger platform to help these promising teenagers who faced such debilitating obstacles.

Though there are many options for taking action, he decided his next step was a college education. Obtaining a liberal arts degree will give him the breadth of knowledge necessary to ensure all people, regardless of their culture, color or class, are granted equitable opportunities.