An accomplished student leader and activist, Alton Coston is committed to elevating equality and belonging throughout his communities. He approaches challenges with curiosity and bridges differences with sophistication. At William & Mary, he has served in numerous leadership positions, including as a President's Aide and as Undersecretary for Multicultural Affairs for William & Mary's Student Assembly. He redesigned the African American Male Coalition, which had become dormant, and helped organize and host the university's MLK Commemoration Ceremony. In the 2021-22 academic year, he secured funding and partnerships for the university's inaugural Sankofa Legacy Festival. Alton's partnership with Highland, a community-facing public history museum and historic site at William & Mary that serves as a community laboratory for inclusive history, has deepened student engagement with the site. He formed the Highland-Student William & Mary Connection to engage students with Highland's research to uncover the lives of the enslaved men, women and children who lived at the Highland Estate in central Virginia – alongside that of James Monroe, our nation's fifth president, who owned the estate. He also delivered a passionate and powerful TEDx Talk to urge other universities to take on this collaborative research model. Katherine A. Rowe, President
The law was always a foreigner to my community, and because of such, something that we feared. The only experiences that we had with the law were when officers felt that they were above it, a judge handling child support disputes, or the locking up of one of our Black brethren. Law to us was what kryptonite was to Superman – our biggest weakness. As a child, though, I was always inquisitive, thinking that maybe this monster of law haunting us could somehow be used to benefit our people. Nevertheless, the more I read, the more furious I grew because I began to understand. I understood that the public education my home community received was feeding our fear; our fear of the law was not the fault of our own, but at the fault of an education system neglecting to fully teach our people their rights and liberties. As a result of my newfound understanding, I realized that I had to delve myself into opportunities that would enable me an effective civil rights educator to my community. Therefore, I worked at the ACLU of Virginia and currently teach middle school students about the accumulation of Black political and economic rights.