Through numerous leadership positions, the graduating senior has pushed for change at Temple
As a child, Tyrell Mann-Barnes was homeschooled by his mother. After noticing her son’s love for reading, writing and science, she called him “Mr. Scientist” and “Mr. President” with the faith that it would one day come to fruition.
“When I was really little I wanted to be president,” Mann-Barnes said. “And when Barack Obama won in sixth grade, I was like, ‘I’m going to be the next Black president’ and that kind of set the trajectory for every school I went to.”
When he began at Temple as a first-generation college student, Mann-Barnes’ dream of being both a political figure and doctor drove him to declare a double political science and biology major. But, due to the challenge of balancing the two, he decided to swap his political science major for one in English.
Still, he remained active in politics. During the 2016 – 2017 school year, he, along with best friends and Temple alumnae Kayla Martin and Paige Hill, launched the student government campaign, Activate TU.
“Tyrell is one of the hardest working people I know,” Martin said. “His dedication to excellence, while prioritizing equality and access, is inspiring. He’s truly earned everything he’s accomplished.”
As a team of two Black women and a gay Black man, Activate TU strove for representation and inclusion of Temple’s diverse student body.
“I think that regardless of whether or not people knew who I am or knew who we were, my team as a whole truly created a movement on campus to make people feel more active to be involved and more passionate about their experience at Temple,” Mann-Barnes said.
That passion translated to votes. In one of the closest elections of Temple’s history, Activate TU won by less than 100 votes.
Mann-Barnes has held several other leadership roles on campus, including Resident Assistant with University Housing Residential Life and Vice-President of Student Activists Against Sexual Assault. Through this, he has become a notable figure at Temple, known for his natural-born leadership and bright smile.
“He was one of the first people to see my potential and encourage me to strive for leadership positions at Temple,” senior supply chain management major Almas Ayaz said.
During her freshman year, Ayaz instantly felt represented and motivated to grow while Mann-Barnes was her resident assistant. His encouragement pushed her to becoming his successor in the role of Director of Campus Life and Diversity.
“I am a better leader for having someone like Tyrell to challenge me. Matter of fact, I think we all are better leaders for having someone like Tyrell a part of our community. He taught me and teaches so many others to walk in their truth unapologetically.”
Despite this positive persona, Mann-Barnes has had his own share of personal struggles as a student in the classroom and leader in professional spaces.
“I would say throughout college one thing that I have battled with is depression,” he said.
“I feel like being on the stage and being in so many leadership roles where people are constantly looking at you, you feel this need to put on this facade of happiness.”
But with the help of therapy and his support system of friends and family, he was able to battle depression and reach a better place.
“The happiest I ever felt was when I was honest with myself about where I was mentally and emotionally,” Mann-Barnes said. “And when I told myself, ‘Okay, we need to seek help to be the best at these positions,’ that’s when I truly started finding happiness.”
Mann-Barnes attributes his perseverance to his faith.
“I pray every day,” he said. “I truly believe that I could not do anything without God in my life.”
What drives Mann-Barnes’ successes is not his own ambition or personal interest, but a desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
“My belief system is one thing that keeps me rock solid in what I’m capable of doing because I think I represent something bigger than me,” he said. “Everything I do is bigger than Tyrell the individual and it’s more of what has Tyrell contributed to the community or the larger picture.”
As he approaches graduation, Mann-Barnes hopes that he has inspired incoming and current Temple students who hope to pursue student leadership.
“What I hope that I’ve done is give people an example of what it means to live authentically as yourself and never set limitations on what you can do, achieve and dream of doing,” he said. “I hope that with that example it encourages people to push the envelope and to do something that they’re terrified of doing. There has been no experience that I’ve had that I was not once terrified at some point.”
Mann-Barnes’ conquest to change the world doesn’t stop at Temple. His ultimate goal in his career is to teach while continuing to learn and evolve into the best version of himself.
“I see myself in medicine. I see myself as a writer. I see myself thinking about things that will hopefully change the way that people are conditioned socially,” he said. “And, make people want to be active members of change in whatever issues they have in the world.”
Written by: Ngozi Nwanji
Photography by: Shefa Ahsan