Jayda Williams, a third-year student at the University of Central Arkansas, has pursued coursework in gender studies and African American studies alongside her chemistry major to provide her with the intellectual tools to pursue her passion for social justice. She currently serves as president of the campus chapter of the NAACP and has worked to advocate for statewide policy change to remove criminal history questions from employment application forms and expand opportunities for the rehabilitation of formerly incarcerated individuals. Jayda's concern for equality of opportunity similarly extends to students attending her own high school alma mater, where she has already co-founded a scholarship for minority graduates just a few short years after her own graduation.
Ultimately, my identity and my experiences have fueled my passion for civic engagement. As an African American girl raised in an impoverished neighborhood, I was overcome with the desire for different opportunities for others who looked like me or had the same experiences I've had. My mom was my first inspiration, and I volunteered with her nonprofit organization throughout high school. The organization aided in the improvement of our community in many ways, from sheltering women who were victims of domestic violence to feeding meals to kids in low-income neighborhoods. Like her, I aspire to use my potential career as a chemist, educator, and entrepreneur to dismantle inequity and economic disparity -primarily within the black community -by organizing outreach programs that combat marginalizing systems. I have already begun to develop the skills I will need to achieve my goals through my involvement with organizations such as the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, and I believe that the Newman Civic Fellowship will offer me the opportunity to learn and refine my skills in collaboration, organizing, and community-building.