Sakira Coleman, a third year student and Centennial Scholar at James Madison University, has devoted her academic career to issues of health education. She created a social media campaign, entitled JMU: Unheard Voices, highlighting the stories of survivors of campus sexual violence. Through her work with the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services, she serves as a mentor to local high school students, working to prevent teen pregnancy and support healthy choices. She is also engaged in a research project evaluating the effectiveness of these programs and developing curricula to be used on a broader scale. Sakira also serves as a peer mentor for bystander innovation training and as a resident advisor for the Female Institute, a college bridge program for underrepresented students.
As a young high school student, being engaged in the community always felt important to me. Having a hand in helping others was always rewarding and gave me memories to last a lifetime. I live by the quote, "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." At James Madison, I have been able to start a campaign to raise awareness about the reality of sexual assault and rape called Unheard Voices. I have been elected as vice president of Students for Minority Outreach by my peers in order to help increase diversity on JMU's campus. I have been a mentor and educator to many high school students in the area through the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. It has been amazing to make so many connections with people not only in my JMU community but also outside of that in order to create impactful relationships and sustainable change. Being involved in my community has also taught me about the importance of social change. It will take every single one of us to spur change and to create a more equitable society for all people.