Donovan Tate, College of Health and Human Sciences

Donovan Tate300Donovan Tate has been dealt more than his fair share of setbacks.

His father, with whom he shared a special bond, died of sudden cardiac arrest when Tate was a junior in high school. Then he lost a friend in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting; Tate was in an adjacent theater and witnessed the aftermath of the attack.

But you would never guess what the CSU social work student has been through when you see him greet homeless clients with a wide smile and firm handshake at the Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope, where he is completing his internship.

Tate, whose parents were both in the U.S. Army, was born in Eschenbach, Germany, and has lived everywhere from North Carolina to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“I owe so much to my parents, because they instilled in me the value of hard work, determination and treating others the way you want to be treated,” he says.

On the night of the Aurora shooting, he and some friends were in theater 8, while another group of friends were next door in theater 9, where the shooting occurred. Tate recalls hearing popping sounds and smoke coming through bullet holes in the wall before the building was evacuated. His friend AJ Boik was among those killed.

“You think about Virginia Tech and Columbine, and you see stories in the history books, but you never understand it until it happens to you,” Tate says. “If there’s anything positive about it, it brought the Aurora community together and made you cherish the moments you have with people.”

Despite the loss of his father and his friend, Tate graduated seventh in his class from Gateway High School in Aurora, and after visiting the University of Denver and University of Colorado, he chose CSU.

“I remember taking a tour of CSU and thinking, ‘This is it,’” Tate says. “Sometimes when you step into an environment, you just know.”

After dabbling in history, English and communication studies courses, he took an introductory social work class from Assistant Professor John Gandy and was hooked.

“That sparked the interest,” Tate says. “Social work is the profession that acts as a safety net for those who have experienced adversity, and I’ve seen some adversity. I’ve been through some of the same experiences, and I want to help others get through them.”

In addition to his internship at the Murphy Center, Tate has served as community service coordinator for United Men of Color and a mentor for the Black African American Cultural Center at CSU, helping elementary and high school students in GPS (Giving Back — EmPowering — Strengthening our Culture).

Tate says his dream job would involve doing policy or advocacy work to end the marginalization and alienation of certain groups. And as graduation nears, he says he is missing his father more than usual.

“I would give anything to hear my dad say, ‘I’m proud of you,’” Tate says. “I don’t need the best phone, or the best car, because you don’t go to the grave with those things. It’s just about cherishing life and cherishing people.”