A Long Time Coming
The Long family's journey began some 1,800 miles away. But once you meet them, it's not hard to see how it led them here.
By Allison Iacone | Photo by Marie Ketring
a long tradition and a Long tradition being celebrated at WITC this year.
tradition: the college’s Centennial, celebrating 100 years in the city of
tradition: Billy, Demarrio and Deyvon.
three brothers are enrolled in the human services associate degree program at
WITC-Superior. Billy, 26, will be among the program’s first graduating class
family’s journey began some 1,800 miles away. But, once you meet them, it’s not
hard to see how it led them here.
spent the first 12 years of his life growing up in the west end of Las Vegas. He
describes it as a rough neighborhood, one where he chose to avoid mischief by
staying inside. He says his mother told him, “If you’re going to go out, make it
worthwhile.” It was as much a warning to stay out of trouble as a call to make a
took those words to heart, spending time as a child helping his grandmother,
great-grandmother and others in need both in Las Vegas and, later, while living
those years were also marked by struggle. Demarrio, 21, says difficult
circumstances forced his family into periods of homelessness. He remembers
briefly living in a shelter as a young child. Another time, he says, his family
lived out of their car.
feeling was a bit unpleasant at first but I got a little used to it and realized
at a young age that people are worse [off] than we are or been through this
longer than we had,” he says. “It made me stronger and wiser as a person.”
ability to find a silver lining is a common thread with the Longs.
several years in Arkansas, the family, which then included Deyvon (born in
1993), moved back to Las Vegas. But, Billy says, his mother had tired of city
life. A visit to a friend in Canada convinced her to move her family north. From
there they eventually settled in Superior.
Deyvon and Demarrio enrolled in elementary and middle schools, Billy spent time
trying to find his way; working full-time, starting programs at another local
college, but never finding the right fit. He began looking closely at WITC-Superior
in 2009 after older sister, Kenyardar, 29, earned her nursing degree from the
almost sounds cliché, but my idol has always been Dr. Martin Luther King,” Billy
said. “When I saw that WITC was starting a human services program I thought it
was where I should be.”
enrolled in fall of 2010 and immediately became a presence on campus, joining
the Campus Activities Board, the Green Team, the Human Services Associate’s Club
and most recently serving as Student Senate President. His fellow students have
has a type of leadership ‘magic’ that enables him to excite, lead and organize
groups of people to go beyond what they may have thought possible,” says human
services instructor Johanna Garrison.
became equally involved soon after enrolling in the spring of 2011. While he
already devotes his free time volunteering at local shelters and parks, he
dreams of using his degree in human services to build his own non-profit agency
dedicated to helping people find the services they need.
to live by example. I feel like I can use the adversity I experienced in my own
life as a tool to empower others,” says Demarrio.
was just 17 years old when he entered the Human Services program at WITC-Superior
in the fall of 2011. He credits WITC with helping him shape his future, calling
it an important stepping stone.
hands-on program,” Deyvon says. “We do as much [field work] in two years as many
people do in four-year schools.”
says, upon graduating with his human services associate degree from WITC, he
plans to ladder into the baccalaureate program at The College of St. Scholastica
in Duluth. WITC and St. Scholastica have joined together to offer a transfer
opportunity for WITC’s human services grads to complete their B.A. in social
Billy and Demarrio say they are strongly considering that path as well.
it all, the Longs have stayed together. They continue to live together with
their parents and three other siblings. Perhaps not surprisingly, the parents
who taught their children the value of making a difference continue to serve
vital roles in their lives.
are all I have and all I know,” Deyvon explains. “Tough times have kept us
rest of WITC’s students and staff, the Long family bond will never be felt like
it is this year. Billy is set to graduate in the spring and Deyvon will take a
year off to enlist in the Army National Guard. Demarrio will be in attendance
slated to graduate in the spring of 2013. But, however brief, their spirit of
involvement and commitment will be felt for years to come.
“Each brother has his own personality and strengths,” says Garrison. “No matter
which path they choose in human services, they will have the opportunity to be
successful and make a difference in the lives of others.”
For more information about the Human Services Associate program,
To comment on the story through Facebook,