Celebrating Black Excellence in the Many Forms It Takes: Joshua Collin ’20

Joshua Collin ‘20 is a senior from Newark, NJ, though he considers Haiti to also be home since both of his parents are Haitian. He is a major in Economics and a minor in Psychology. Collin may be most known for creating Savings, Wealth, Investment, Finance and Trade. SWIFT is an organization interested in increasing access to financial literacy and helping others engage in better personal finance habits. You can almost always find Collin in the Sci Commons with the SWIFT team, surrounded by people around a table with their black and green “SWIFT” tablecloth chatting and eating pizza or another snack. Collin began SWIFT his sophomore year with his friend Rafi Hares ’20. 

Collin played basketball during his first year at Swarthmore and credits the experience with developing his leadership and teamwork abilities.  

“That was a really transformative experience for me just learning what it meant to be a good cohesive team… I’m still obviously learning how to be a good communicator and be a better leader, but that was a great building block in that process. I didn’t realize it at the time.”

Collin’s first inspiration to develop a program at Swarthmore came out of seeing how important it was to take a holistic approach to health in the theme of mind, body, spirit. Collin and some others were interested in programming directed at student athletes.

“I started working with some friends on mental health for athletes — my other two friends were athletes as well — and they had mental health issues. And we kind of crashed and burned because we didn’t know how to build [the organization].” 

While he and his friends’ mental health for athletes programming did not end up coming fully to fruition, the idea for the program came from Collin’s wish to better himself.

“That stemmed from a summer of just trying to learn and grow as a person and figuring out what areas I wasn’t really competent in or areas I should be competent in.” 

This same desire to learn and be a better, well-rounded community member led to his interest in building SWIFT. He wanted to gain a better understanding of the history and applications of finance and then proceeded to figure out how to develop an engaging program relevant to college students. 

“I was like, ‘what else should I be learning about?’ All these people I see like Oprah and Robert F. Smith … I was like ‘what are they doing?’, they are investors, they know how to handle their money. I don’t know how to do that. So I started learning and then after a while, I thought, ‘wow, maybe this is something that can be brought to Swat’s campus for other students.’ I asked other students ‘would you want to learn about this stuff, is it something you’re interested in?’ I talked to Ty Clay [’18], who is a mentor of mine — love him to death — and asked ‘can we put this together?’” 

Collin has been running SWIFT for two and a half years now, more recently with the help of a bigger consistent group of students. Running SWIFT and promoting its mission is something that brings Collin joy and is a manifestation of his commitment to the health of the Black community. Being in company with people who are positive and passionate as well is what motivates Collin. 

“I feel like when you’re around other passionate people, actually trying to make a difference that just adds energy to you and fuels your fire and that’s something that brings me joy when I see people actually pursuing [their goals] … [and] seeing the bigger picture of life for themselves and for others.”

Collin finds that the people in his life that make him happy are also the positive and passionate people who support, challenge, and inspire him: both friends and family. These are the people in his life who engage with him on the daily and look out for him.

“It always helps getting a text from my sister, a call from my mom or message from one of my friends like ‘Hey, Josh, I hope you’re taking care of yourself and doing well, come out of your room, remember there is more to life than just working.’”

Collin’s impetus to create SWIFT did not come from an innate interest in business and finance, but rather financial education: an interest in understanding the effects of economics on family, on community, on the use of power and implementation of policy. More than anything though, Collin’s ambition stems from his parents. 

“What really motivates me is just seeing all the stuff that my parents have been through and how much they’ve sacrificed for me and making sure that I’m taking the steps to live a fulfilling and happy life where I can inspire others to kind of do the same.”

Accordingly, Collin hopes that he has an impact on many others in the future. This impact could be more material or more symbolic.  

“Yes, I hope like ten,fifteen, twenty years from now someone will say, ‘Josh really inspired and helped me’, whether it was providing money or guidance for a startup or small business … or just being a role model to people.”

Being a good role model and advocate embodies Collin’s idea of Black excellence. Collin thinks of Black excellence as the ways in which individual people uplift others and envision a future for their community. Examples of Black excellence in Collin’s life include his mother and sister, but also many of his friends he has made at Swarthmore. 

“[My friends] are just amazing people, people who really get it and understand that there’s a bigger picture. They’re always doing things to help the Black community.”

Collin went to a predominantly white high school and his transition to Swarthmore was relatively smooth for a few reasons. 

“My sister also went here, so she kind of broke some stuff down for me in terms of what to watch out for and how to be mindful and how to carry myself well, so the transition wasn’t too difficult in that way. I think part of that was because when I went to Swatstruck, I met Coleman [Powell] ’20, Kendre [Thomas] ’20, and Kaleb [Forson] ’20 and all these people I still talk to now. And then I met another group of friends here, and they were also very mindful people. Because my high school was pretty academically rigorous, the academic transition was manageable as well. It wasn’t the hardest of transitions, but I definitely had challenges and struggles too.”

Though the transition was very manageable for Collin, he recognizes that the opportunity to be at Swarthmore and experience the transition the way he did was due to the work and perseverance of those before him. 

“I’m just grateful to be here because I know people 50 years ago paved the way for people like myself to actually have a place at an institution like this and to have a voice… There’s been steps in a direction that is a right direction in some ways, but there has to be a lot more done.”

Collin attended the opening barbeque, Chester Children’s Chorus performance and Malcolm Jenkins’ talk within the Celebrating Black Excellence programming — a series of events commemorating 50 years of the Black Cultural Center, Black Studies Program, and 25 years of Chester’s Children Chorus. Although Collin and his friends appreciate the events and the effort that went into them, they hope that the celebration is not limited. 

“I think they’re doing a great job of bringing all these people to the forefront and talking about their experiences … [but] honestly I wish it wasn’t just a year thing … why does it have to be just a month or just a year or a bounded timeframe for all these things [celebrating marginalized groups] to be talked about? I don’t think that should ever be the case.”

Collin hopes that in the future he will be able to see Black students at the college have more spaces on campus to congregate in addition to the BCC and that Black students overall feel more at home at Swarthmore. Additionally, since he has a passion for economics, Collin hopes there will be more Black students learning about economics.  

“A year ago SWIFT hosted an event called Black Wealth in America with Philip Jefferson and Professor Allison Dorsey just talking about a history of Black wealth and how things like redlining and slavery really hinder the growth of the wealth of black individuals in this country. I hope we have more classes or lessons on that. Part of my lens and perspective is financial education. How do we build wealth for ourselves as a community when we’ve been denied it for so long?”

“I would love for more students of color to [engage with] economics or kind of shape how this school thinks about it in the broader society… Swarthmore sends a lot of students on to become economics PhDs who have a big impact in how we think about how our economy works and how the world works. And I’m pretty sure the majority of these people are not Black men or Black women, and I would love for that proportion to definitely change.” 

Collin is an ambitious, community-oriented problem solver and forward thinker, always aiming to absorb more knowledge in order to disseminate it. At the moment he is working on a venture with Bioloopsleep.com which works on improving sleep for individuals; they are currently helping people work through COVID19. Part of Collin’s legacy will be SWIFT’s presence at the college, but he hopes to continue making an impact by helping others, learning, and striving to be a better person. 

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