Newman Civic Fellow Feature – Aaliyah McLean
January Newman Civic Feature Blog
James Madison University
- What initially drew you to the college/university that you are currently attending?
In the beginning, my plan wasn’t to attend JMU. I wanted to stay close to home in Richmond, VA near my family and friends. One of my now mentors hosted a JMU Duke for a Day event and took us all to JMU to tour. By her doing this one act, it attracted me to the service and community feeling JMU offers and creates. JMU has a heart and spirit of its own and I’m glad to now be a part of that.
- Share a fun fact about yourself!
I’m the Student Body President at JMU!
- Name 1-2 societal issues that you are passionate about aiding and eradicating.
EVERYTHING. But if I could narrow it down, something that I want to focus on is the barriers and stigmas we create within Higher Education and Voter Education. To be educated and to vote is a right that not everyone has and has to be looked into and solved.
- What projects/initiatives are you currently working on as a Newman Civic Fellow?
Some projects I’m working on is working with the Civic Engagement Center on campus to help with voter education and outreach. Something else I am working on is trying to come up with ideas to help the retention rates by looking at our mental health and basic needs policies at our university with minority students by working with SCHEV’s Student Advisory Committee.
- Share an interesting, surprising, or touching story or moment that you have witnessed or experienced that fueled your inspiration and passion.
I never knew why I did the things I did; I’ve always loved to be involved in my community, I’ve always been invested with coming up with new ideas, and I’ve always strived to meet others where they are. This summer I had the opportunity to attend the NCLC and here Jon B. King speak about his journey and what brought him to where he is today. After hearing him, I then reflected on myself where I identified how my journey in college helped me overcome a lot of the challenges I had growing up. Without people and my community pulling me forward, I wouldn’t be enrolled and college and I believe it is my duty to pay it forward for those that brought me to where I was.
- If you could have your dream career after graduating, what would it be?
My dream career would be serving my community in office somewhere, somehow. Eventually, I would love to create my own higher education non-profit helping the transition between marginalized students get the materials they need to apply to college but also assisting with their sustainability in college throughout their graduation.
- There’s a child that sees a societal issue in their community and wants to help but doesn’t where to start. What would you tell them/how would you encourage them?
The first step is identifying the problem and the second step is to do whatever you can with whatever you have available. A lot of times, people try to avoid societal problems because they believe they don’t have the tools to solve everything but what I try to tell people is you have to have the little pieces to make the bigger puzzle and the rest will come.