Livingstone counselor helps students stay on track

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone CollegeNews Service
SALISBURY — You don’t have to tell Joseph Briscoe what it means to be tough.
He grew up in southeast Washington, D.C., the youngest of five boys. And though his parents owned a home in one of the city’s nicer neighborhoods, it was just blocks away from inner-city blight.
Fortunately, John and Bessie Briscoe laid a solid foundation that helped their sons stay off the streets and in the books. Today all five men are successful professionals, and the youngest uses his expertise to help Livingstone College students get on the right path and stay there.
“I enjoy helping young people improve their situations,” said Briscoe, an academic counselor for Empowering Scholars, a division of Student Support Services. “When I listen to young people lament how things are in their lives I ask them to consider other ways of doing things, different approaches that will yield better results. Oftentimes, it’s not that young people don’t want to change or do better, but instead they just need someone to provide a little bit of guidance and advice.”
And that’s exactly what Briscoe does at Livingstone College, where he has worked since December in a role that allows him to put his education to work — he has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Winston-Salem State University and a master’s degree in education from Regent University — and make a difference in young people’s lives.
Alex Crawford can attest to Briscoe’s effectiveness. The sophomore criminal justice major from Trenton, N.J., came to Livingstone after things didn’t go so well at Burlington County Community College.
Crawford came to Livingstone expecting to play basketball as he had done at the community college, only to learn he was academically ineligible because he lacked the proper number of credit hours.
Instead of dwelling on that, Crawford said he immersed himself in his books and became more focused on his school work. He also got involved in the OBRP Program, which allows Livingstone students with balances of $4,000 or higher to work to pay off their debt to the college. He also sought scholarship assistance from the United Negro College Fund and other organizations.
Briscoe has been invaluable to him, he said.
“He has been a mentor for me throughout the school year,” Crawford said. “He helps keep me on track. When I get stressed out about academics or spiritual things he helps keep me grounded by keeping me uplifted and discussing the Bible with me. He’s very encouraging and supportive. He’s more of a father figure to me than anything.”
Crawford’s father lives about 15 minutes from him. The two are close in proximity but not in ways that matter most.
He said he hopes to become a state trooper and ultimately work for The United States Department of Homeland Security, helping protect the country. He thinks having employees like Briscoe at Livingstone College is vitally important.
“The way he presents himself and the different outlooks he has on life are helpful,” Crawford said. “He helps me see things from a different perspective and talks to me about ways to change things in my life so things can get better. I’m really glad he’s here at Livingstone College. I find it easy to talk to him about different things.”
Stephanie Jones, director of student support Services and The Success Center, said Briscoe is an asset to her department in many ways.
“This job requires 40+ hours of his time each week, yet he’s still able to be an excellent husband and excellent father to his five children,” Jones said. “He’s reliable, spiritual, ethical and creative, and he never turns down a challenge.”
Jones said Briscoe relates well to the students and has a good rapport with them. But he also “provides a good listening ear to me when I need to run new program ideas by him because he has a lot of wisdom,” she said.
Besides working as an academic counselor, Briscoe also serves as the trainer for Livingstone’s Corps of Elite Diamond Cutters, a campus-wide mentoring program for students who need extra help to ensure they stay on the right path academically.
“He’s a great man, and I’m truly blessed to have him on my staff,” Jones said.
Briscoe said he feels blessed to work at an HBCU, where he hopes he can make a difference in the lives of young people.
“I try to be a blessing to every young person with whom I come in contact through my advising or counseling,” he said. “I thank God I’m alive and healthy enough to impart guidance and wisdom to those that need it. When I think about the positive relationships I’ve had that impacted my life I get emotional because each of those relationships has helped lead me to where I am today, and I’m simply trying to give back what was given to me.”