Breona Walker: Creating more opportunities for the future
JMU to VCU: From a bachelor’s in business marketing to a master’s in counselor education
As a Black first-generation college student, Breona Walker’s undergraduate experience at James Madison University greatly impacted her perspective on education. She not only observed a gap in educational equity that’s common at U.S. universities, she saw it in her volunteer work with the Partnership for the Future (PFP), a college preparation and workforce development program for high-potential high school students from challenging circumstances.
“A lot of universities have a check box approach to diversity,” said Walker. “They place their value on enrollment percentage, but they don’t necessarily make it a place for underrepresented students to feel included.” Influenced by her experience, Walker switched from business marketing as an undergrad, to a higher education track in college counseling and student affairs where she would be able to help students like herself on their pathway to college.
Why counselor education?
The VCU School of Education’s M.Ed. in Counselor Education program offered Walker an opportunity to use her experience to make a bigger difference while helping break down barriers for underrepresented students. “I recognized that counseling is not something that is talked about a lot in minority communities,” said Walker “My experience in this field will allow me to create more opportunities for myself and others in the future.”
Advice to students
Being the first in your family to attend college comes with a lot of unknowns and first-time challenges. However, when Walker reflects on her experience, she says that she feels lucky.
“Although I am first-gen, I had my parents supporting me, and I recognize that this is not the reality for a lot of other students,'' she said. That being said, she advises current and incoming students not to be afraid to take advantage of available resources.
“I was apprehensive about using resources such as the VCU Writing Center because I was worried about what people would think of me,” Walker said. “I eventually realized that using these tools does not make you less intelligent. It merely says that you are paying for these resources, and you should take full advantage of them while you can.”