Curtis Yancy, Tufts University
Curtis Yancy didn't have much when he arrived at Tufts in the fall of 2009. While other classmates unloaded U-Hauls and decorated their dorm rooms, Yancy showed up with a few bags of clothes and a laptop. He was excited, but uncertain about this next chapter in his life.
Yancy had grown up in poverty in North St. Louis County in Missouri. His family life was marred by domestic violence and drugs. However, his potential as a student and an athlete had created opportunities. An elementary school teacher helped steer him out of a failing school district and into the prestigious Mary Institute & St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS). Guided by the strength and support of his mother, Christina Candillo, Yancy achieved the academic potential that his teacher had recognized in him.
"Curtis appreciates the opportunities that he's had," says Tufts football coach Jay Civetti. "He shows that with the effort that he gives and expects when it's time to get down to business. He's very social and fun, but he's also very serious as a student and a leader in our program."
Yancy chose Tufts because, he says, it offered the best balance between academics and athletics. However, after struggling academically as a freshman, he showed his commitment to academics by deciding to not play football as a sophomore. Also a thrower on the track & field team, he says it gave him time to mature and refocus on what it was going to take to succeed as a three-season athlete.
Everything came together for him and he graduated this past May as one of the top multi-sport athletes at Tufts. He started at defensive end for the football team, was an NCAA Championship qualifier for the track & field team, and was a leader of both squads.
"Curtis is exactly the type of athlete you want on your team," says his track and field coach, Ethan Barron, G05. "He’s a big-meet performer. The higher the stakes, the more the team needs Curtis, the more focused and locked in he becomes. Curtis is a natural leader with the ability to talk with his teammates one-on-one or lead a full team meeting. His work ethic commands respect from all those around him and sets a tone that makes our team better."
Yancy figured out how to navigate a rigorous academic schedule while competing in three sports. A psychology major, he wants to become a school counselor and help others get the same opportunities he has had.
"I would like to work in an area similar to that I grew up in," he says. "I want to help kids coming from hard situations and let them know that it is possible to break the cycle."
Tufts was the right place for Yancy to flourish.
"These years at Tufts have meant so much to me," Yancy says. "I’ve met some great people that I hope to stay in touch with for the rest of my life. I have learned some things about myself and the world around me that I will never forget. Receiving that diploma will mark the completion of a goal I set for myself when I was seven years old."