Unfazed by Payne

Photo of Jocelyn Payne smiling at a dinner with friends (not pictured) courtesy: Cariane Geffrard

Jocelyn Payne, 21, exudes a rare aura in a world that seems to be descending further into madness.

Payne is a junior occupational therapy student attending Florida A&M University. Originally from Fort Lauderdale, she has settled in Tallahassee seeking to revel in the same Southern values of religion, family and compassion that she was raised with back home.

Due to her extroverted nature, one of the ways she does this is through conversation with her campus family.

“I have great, positive influences around me  — all of my friends represent a different part of me because I think having diversity [in my friendships] is very important,” Payne said. “I have some friends who can be very quiet or calm, and sometimes you need that, but I also have friends who are loud and just want to do everything, and I think that’s a great balance. [They have all] taught me things about myself.”

As a child, Payne was a part of her local church’s dance team, where she found her love for dancing and met one of her closest friends, Raven Mitchell. Mitchell, a computer science student at Tallahassee Community College, recalls how she was the introverted half of the duo but became Payne’s dance mentor. By being receptive to her teachings, Payne showed Mitchell how much of a good listener she was and opened the door for one of the many deep conversations they would go on to have.

“Talking is my favorite thing to do with Jocelyn; we can go from one conversation to the next,” Mitchell said. “Jocelyn is a really easy person to talk to; she really tries to bring light into a room and just makes fun out of everything — even if [the situation seems] bad.”

Victoria Pierre, a junior psychology student at Florida A&M, met Payne through one of those unfortunate situations: FAMU’s housing crisis.

Because FAMU could not accommodate all of its students’ requests, Pierre found herself in the undesirable situation of wanting to live in FAMU Towers with her best friend but instead receiving notice she would be living in a dorm with five strangers in the Palmetto Street South Apartments.

“I don’t regret that situation one bit. Initially, I was nervous to move in because I’m very introverted and shy, which makes it difficult for me to make friends. Luckily enough, though, my roommate was Jocelyn,” Pierre said. “She was super kind upon first meeting, and after getting to know her, she made living in Palmetto a lot easier. It was kind of a domino effect really. Because I enjoyed my Palmetto experience, it made it easier for me to be comfortable around other people on campus  — making my FAMU experience better too.”

Pierre and Payne would choose to continue living together in an off-campus apartment after the 2023 spring semester ended. Now, a year of conflicting schedules later, Pierre sees Payne as a sister.

“Almost every week, I ask Jocelyn to braid my hair for me, and when she does, we always catch up with each other and have our little chats,” Pierre said. “I appreciate [them] because she’d be busy at work and I’d have school, so having those moments between us became something I would look forward to every week.”

Post-graduation, Payne hopes to take her caring traits to one of society’s more vulnerable groups. Initially thinking of going into nursing, Payne says she switched to and fell in love with occupational therapy, wishing to work with children in the field because of her childhood.

“My aunt ran a daycare and every day, we would come home and there would just be babies everywhere … I used to hurry up and finish my homework early just so I could help out and play with the babies,” Payne said.

Despite the challenges Payne faced and still faces in this cyclical life of ups and downs, her personal philosophy is to maintain an air of joy around you. Whether dealing with family problems, self-esteem issues or FAMU’s financial aid office, Payne reminds us all to maintain a lightness about us so that we can always gracefully land on our feet.