Deojanique (DJ) Gray had two pivotal supporters that helped her get where she is today: her late mother and the late Felicia Henry-Nailon of Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s TRIO. Her journey wasn’t always an easy one, but it’s guided her to Ivy Tech and a career in social work, something she says she feels called to do.

“I want to help. I want to help families that have good parents that are in troubled situations turn their lives around.”

When Gray was a teenager, her mother suffered from an illness that caused her to be unable to work. They ended up having to live in a car, and Child Protective Services (CPS) was called, putting Gray into foster care. Her time in the “system” led her to see some areas that could be changed, and she plans to make an impact with her degree in Human Services.

Before Gray got interested in social work, she loved music. An alumnus of the Voices of Unity in Fort Wayne, she used to want to be a music teacher. She even received a scholarship to attend Purdue University Fort Wayne for it. But music, she says, just wasn’t her calling.

Gray came to Ivy Tech because she’d always wanted to, but it was TRIO that changed her life. She says she was skeptical of TRIO at first but ended up being there from open to close almost every day.

“Felicia changed my life forever. I wish that everyone who signs up for Ivy Tech goes to TRIO. They’re your support system when you don’t have one.”

That’s what DJ is focusing on now: being a support system. She works and interns at the local YMCA, leading a girls’ group called “Silence Speaks Volumes” and a boys’ group called “Manifestation”. She says the groups touch on subjects like understanding worth and self-love. You can tell by speaking to her the passion she has for these groups and the well-being of their members.

“If I can take one child’s heart a day and turn it around, imagine how many children can benefit. Imagine the impact.”

Now that she’s graduated Ivy Tech, Gray will continue her education in Human Services at Purdue Fort Wayne this fall. In the meantime, she’ll be hammering out the plans for when she gets a full-time job while also juggling her many extracurricular activities. As she leaves the college, she offers this message:

“I want to explain to kids and all the freshmen coming into the school that fight to be here in this moment to understand it’s okay to not have it together. You can do it.”

I want to explain to kids and all the freshmen coming into the school that fight to be here in this moment to understand it’s okay to not have it together. You can do it.

– DJ Gray

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.