Role Model, Mentor


Dazaun Soleyn


Business Management & Dance Studies



With natural warmth and amiability wrapped in a quick, contagious smile, Dazaun Soleyn has a passion for dance, a penchant for business, and a goal to bring the two together by opening his own performing arts school.


Yet, just beneath the unassuming surface is a deep reserve of determination and courage developed by confronting challenge and choosing success. It’s this strength of character that enabled Soleyn to be an influential role model, no-nonsense mentor and supportive “big brother” for some high school students who participated in USF’s Upward Bound program last summer – and an on-going, encouraging influence in the lives of the students with whom he continues to stay in touch.


Upward Bound is a year-round national program that helps underprivileged, first-generation students get into college. USF has participated in Upward Bound for 43 years and offers the largest program in the state.


As a former “bounder” and student employee in USF’s Upward Bound and College Reach-Out office, Soleyn’s first-hand experience, as well as his professionalism, made him a natural fit to work with the summer program. He also believes in “living by example.”


A sophomore majoring in business management and dance studies, Soleyn maintains a 3.50 GPA, including a 4.0 last semester. He works 20-hours-a-week as a human resources trainee at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa – a position he says is providing him with invaluable management experience. He also participates in the College of Business’ Corporate Mentor Program, which pairs business majors with area corporate executives in an effort to help students expand their understanding of the business world and prepare them for their future profession.


In addition, Soleyn represents USF in several capacities. As a freshman, he became involved in the USF Ambassador organization and provides student leadership at numerous campus events. In fact, it was while representing the university as an ambassador at a community job fair sponsored by the office of then Florida Senator Mel Martinez that he so impressed officials, he was offered an internship position in the senator’s office. Soleyn is also an active leader of the Student Alumni Association, serving as a board member and director of programs, as well as a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.


Soleyn understands the invaluable impact a mentor can have on a student’s academic future. “I had my share of challenges growing up,” he says. “My family moved a few times and finding stability and making connections was tough.” He credits supportive family members and caring teachers who provided invaluable mentoring in high school with empowering him to apply early to USF as a high school senior. He was accepted and took a complete semester of classes before graduating from high school with a 4.68 GPA.


That’s why Soleyn is compelled to give back – to ensure success for others. So for six weeks last summer, when 84 students participating in Upward Bound lived on campus taking classes and participating in activities, he acted as a residential counselor.


“Residential counselors mentor students emotionally and academically. We can ‘make or break’ the Upward Bound experience for them,” says Soleyn. “I can identify with the challenges these students are experiencing, so I knew I could have an impact.”


With 24-hour-a-day responsibilities, Soleyn says the position was a lesson in sacrificing for the good of others – such as staying up until 4 am to counsel a troubled participant. He continues to stay in touch with students, checking on their progress and providing encouragement.


“I want them to understand the big picture,” says Soleyn, “to think with the end in mind, knowing where they want to go and what actions to take to get there – to be successful.”


Story by Mary Beth Erskine

Photos by Joseph Gamble