First-generation student designs sweatshirt, sparking “Be the Light” movement at KCU

By Felicia Vaught Nov 8, 2023
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You will often find first-generation Kansas City University (KCU) Student Doctor Cierra Hall wearing a sweatshirt that reads “Be the Light.” However, she is not the only one sporting the phrase across the Joplin Campus – many KCU students and faculty wear the unique design as well. “I like to think of 'Be the Light' as a gentle reminder to continue to shine even when things around you appear to be dim. I wanted to find an expression that would resonate with all people,” Hall expressed.

Hall hand-designed “Be the Light” sweatshirts in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her goal? To become an advocate for hope as the world adjusted to living in social isolation. She delivered her first set of sweatshirts during the holiday season that year – an unusually lonesome time in history as the COVID-19 virus spread rapidly. “I knew several people who were either immunocompromised, battling the loss of a loved one, unable to support their families due to job insecurity or just needed some sort of encouragement,” Hall explained.

She began wearing the design herself when she needed a little reassurance while taking her Medical College Admission Test. Wearing it brought her a sort of calmness during that stressful time. Fellow KCU students began asking where they could buy the sweatshirts for themselves. “I told them I made it and I could bring them one. One turned into two, which would eventually turn into several,” Hall said. “My original and continuous hope is when people wear these sweatshirts, they are reminded to continue to shine their light for the world to see.”

From first-year students in the classroom to third-year students completing their rotations, you can now find “Be the Light” sweatshirts all across the four-state area. Hall is delighted that her design has inspired others and provided an outpouring of support, but she believes this is just the first step in the right direction for her future. “It’s so incredible knowing that I am able to bring a small piece of joy to future physicians during some of the hardest years of their training,” she said. “I feel I have reached my initial goal of spreading positivity, but I truly believe that each season of my life will further allow me to provide support to different people around me.”

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