Wilder School students among Black History in the Making recipients
Four Wilder School students were among the recipients of the 2020 Black History in the Making Awards by VCU’s College of Humanities & Science’s department of African American Studies. Speciose Nyamatereko, Ashley Coles, Taylor Jenkins and Lark Washington were each selected to receive this year’s honor.
The Black History in the Making Awards were founded in 1983 by Dr. Daryl Dance, the distinguished scholar of African American and Caribbean literature, who served as program coordinator during the 1983-84 academic year. Dr. Dance established the Black History in the Making Awards to recognize the achievements of African American students.
In 1983, Dr. Dance invited academic units and organizations to “recognize a student who has made an important contribution.” The nominating units established criteria for selecting recipients. Since 1983, more than 550 students have been recognized by more than 50 departments and organizations. Nominees generally have stellar academic records, a history of community service and intern, professional or work experiences that place them at the forefront of their careers.
Wilder student recipients:
- Speciose Nyamatareko came to the United States as a young child from the Republic of the Congo. She taught herself English by watching movies and reading John Grisham novels. Having read John Grisham’s novels sparked her interest in the criminal justice system, which ultimately led her to choose criminal justice as her major. She is also involved in writing a book called “Untold Stories,” which chronicles the stories of women in her native country. Importantly, criminal justice faculty members have found her to be a student who is truly committed to learning and does not just desire to earn a good grade. Currently, Speciose is a senior and will graduate with a degree in Criminal Justice in May of 2020.
- Ashley Coles is currently a graduate student on track to receive her Master’s in Public Administration in May 2020. She has a degree in Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Tech and aims to have a career in environmental policy. As a youth, Ashley was an active participant in many community programs in her hometown of Hempstead, NY. These programs were essential in shaping and transforming her career goals to enhance the community. In January of 2017, Ashley was awarded the Inspiring Young Professional Award, for her ongoing commitment to building and enhancing the community and state of NY through leadership and service. In continuing a path towards enhancing the community, from January 2019 through August 2019, Ashley served as an intern with the Office of Sustainability for the City of Richmond, where she helped progress climate change initiatives and identified vulnerable populations to enhance social equity. Scholarship is at the core of Ashley’s success and in November of 2019 she was inducted into the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, which highlights her love of learning. Currently, Ashley serves as a Graduate Assistant for Student Governance, where she assists over 400 student organizations with leadership and organizational development.
- Taylor Jenkins has been an engaged and passionate participant both inside and outside the classroom at VCU. Her professors describe her as “deeply engaged” and “impressive” noting her commitment to interrogating the overlays of race and income that can exacerbate access to and use of transportation options. Ms. Jenkins has served as an Outreach Coordinator with the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association where she organized volunteer activities for her fellow students. Ms. Jenkins has also been active professionally in the Richmond community, taking four internships over the course of her time in the planning program. These internships include GIS Intern at the Richmond City Health District, focusing on safe mobility in Richmond and resident access to public transportation; a budget Intern at the Budget and Strategic Planning Office for the City of Richmond; a planning Intern at GRTC Transit System; and Transit Intern at the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. She has recently accepted a permanent position as a Statewide Transit Planner at the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
- Lark Washington is a student in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program. Lark's commitment to addressing pressing urban planning problems--especially for Black people and communities of color--extends well beyond the classroom. As an active member of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities (RISC), she has studied and organized around the issue of eviction, helping to secure important policy changes around affordable housing and eviction prevention. She is deeply committed to making meaningful change through her school and community work.
The African American Studies department calls for award nominations each spring semester.
See the full list of this year’s recipients here.