- Class of: Col ’15, Educ ’16
- Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
- Current city: Charlottesville, VA
- Current job: Assistant Director of the Ridley Scholarship Program
- Bodo’s order: Oh it’s so basic it’s almost embarrassing—I get bacon, egg and American cheese on a plain bagel
Tell us your UVA story.
When I graduated from high school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, so I went to community college to knock out my core classes and ended up staying for three years before coming to UVA because I was having such a good time at home. I always loved history, but my love of Black history stemmed from wondering why we didn’t learn more of it in school; that eventually led me to major in African-American Studies (AAS). My first semester was tough at times, especially because I was a transfer student. What really ended up making my experience at UVA was the people. I volunteered at the AAS graduation in my third year and met Debbie Best (an administrative and undergraduate assistant for the Carter G. Woodson Institute), who became a support system for me. I also joined Sigma Gamma Rho in my second semester of that year. Working in the Science & Engineering Library—and later in the Fine Arts Library post grad school—gave me time to get to know the students, which helped me figure out what I wanted to do.
What’s your favorite UVA memory?
My time in Sigma Gamma Rho. I crossed in spring of 2014, which opened up so many new avenues and friendships for me. I also have amazing memories of Black Alumni Weekend (BAW). At the last BAW weekend, some of my sorors rented a house that ended up being one of the places to be for everyone. You really do feel the love within Sigma.
What was your journey after leaving UVA?
After I graduated, I talked to Lindsey Jones, an AAS TA and PhD student who recommended the Social Foundations program in the Curry School. I loved what I saw and planned to apply for the next school year, assuming that the deadline had already passed. But when I checked the website, I saw it had been extended to June—it was fate!
I had the greatest three semesters of my life there, but when I was done, the “what’s next” question came up again. I started working at the Fine Arts Library and eventually applied to a job with the Ridley Scholarship Program. It was a long experience, but so worthwhile.
What’s something you learned at UVA that you apply to your life now?
I think of this poem I learned in my Sigma journey called “Don’t Quit.” I recite that poem all the time, and it really carried me through my experience at UVA.
What makes you say Wahoowa?
I think of the memories I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gone here and met the people I met. For example, in my fourth year I went on a trip led by Julian Bond to visit famous historical sites from the Civil Rights era. I got to meet John Lewis, Andrew Young and other members of the movement, and it was an experience I wouldn’t have had anywhere else.
How do you stay connected with UVA and other alumni?
It’s pretty easy for me because of my work with Ridley and because of my connection with Sigma Gamma Rho. My major role with Ridley is to build a new scholar program to enhance the student experience, so I’ve never really been disconnected; sometimes I’m surprised by how many undergrads I know!
Why is it important to stay connected?
Black alums have a somewhat shared experience and because of that, events like BAW are really amazing. The fact that we’re all here keeps me in awe—this university wasn’t built with us in mind, and yet here we are, thriving.
Tell us the biggest way in which you hope alumni can help impact UVA.
Staying involved in the best way you can, whether it’s monetary support or engaging with students. No one is asking you to fight every battle, and often it’s important to just be a support system or a listening ear. Sometimes the kids do have a lot figured out, and all they need is someone to back them up.