Amazing Students

Jaylen Black

Jaylen Black (Photos by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Jaylen Black has filled her years at UGA with more activities than might seem humanly possible, but all of it is leading her to fulfill her passion to improve the world in forms of policy, advocacy and law for the underprivileged and overlooked.

Stone Mountain, Georgia

High school:
Redan High School

Current employment:
Tour Guide, UGA Visitors Center
Fundraiser, UGA Call Center
Board Member, Bluebird PAC

Family ties to UGA: 
My mother and aunt graduated from UGA in the ’80s. My father graduated from Texas A&M and my brothers go/went to schools in Kentucky and North Carolina. However, through my involvements and very obvious passions for UGA, I have many members in my family secretly repping that Georgia “G” as much as their respective alma maters.

Expected graduation: 
Fall 2019

Degree objective:
Public relations A.B.

Other degrees:
Minor in political science, Certificate in Public Affairs Communications

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
Throughout my earlier years, I bounced around in many organizations that interested me such as Georgia Daze, UGA club softball team, Dawgs for Diabetes, Hoop Girls, Georgia Recruitment Team, National Council of Negro Women, Black Educational Support Team, Thomas Lay After School Program and Athens Humane Society.

Then, when I established some foundation, I was selected to be a tour guide at the Visitors Center and competed in the Miss Black University of Georgia scholarship pageant. I also served as community service chair for the UGA NAACP chapter where I organized events throughout the Athens community. Because of my involvement, I was selected as “Student Philanthropist of the Year” at the “BUGA Girls Rock” award show and recognized by the President’s Office as an Outstanding Student Leader.

Professionally, I did communications work for the Stacey Abrams for Governor campaign and co-founded UGA Students for Abrams (Formerly Dawgs For Abrams) alongside Meredith B., the first collegiate organization for her race later expanding to seven campuses statewide. I also organized and trained volunteers for many of the local races in Athens. I was appointed to be the statewide communications director for Young Democrats of Georgia. I was selected as a board member for Bluebird PAC, a grassroots political action committee to support democracy and nontraditional Democratic candidates, where I help strategize for the organization.

I was able to compete for UGA through the national PRSSA Bateman Competition where three of my peers and I developed a six month long research and campaign for our client’s diversity and inclusion goals. I was also given opportunities to assist on research for HPV and messaging, conducted research on the intersectional components of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic, geographic location, age, etc. on voting trends, and conducted a longitudinal study of the influence of African Americans in Georgia politics.

I was accepted into T. Howard Foundation, a national program aimed to train and prepare minority students for careers in media, technology, advertising and public relations. I participated in a yearlong fellowship, through the Office of Institutional Diversity, called Leaders Engaged in Affirming Diversity (L.E.A.D.) where I served with a small group of student leaders and had meetings with directors of departments on campus from student affairs, housing, colleges, etc. to discuss how each setting can be more inclusive and integrate different ideas of opportunity for all.

I was accepted into the Grady College D.C. program where I resided with 30 other UGA students on Capitol Hill and interned in the finance, voter protection and field departments of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. I also did public policy work at the Walter Center on Howard University’s campus, under the direction of the interim president of the Congressional Black Caucus. Later, I worked on a D.C. Council race as a staffer.

Lastly, I have been afforded the opportunity to be on television twice: to give a personal tour for Hines Ward, CNN’s Coy Wire and the rest of CNN’s production team displaying campus and our student traditions as well as to speak on NPR’s “Political Rewind” talk show as a show guest with a panel of AJC political journalists and leading political researchers about a wide array of topics from new laws, health care, abortion bill, job opportunities in Georgia, college political and racial climate, etc.

During my time, I have been awarded the ADPR Diversity and Inclusion scholarship, Frazier Moore scholarship, UGA Housing scholarship, Let The Big Dawg Eat scholarship, Follett Bookstore scholarship, and Swann Seiler Leadership in Public Relations scholarship that have aided my academic endeavors.

I am truly blessed for these opportunities and being recognized as a UGA Amazing Student among all the amazing students at this university means much to me.

I chose to attend UGA because … 
I will be quite frank and say UGA wasn’t my first choice of school. Primarily because I was a big-time athlete in high school and always imagined I would play collegiate sports in college, I wanted to go out-of-state to be farther away from home (sorry parents), and I did not think UGA would be my best “fit” culturally and socially.

I was completely wrong. When I came for an admissions event my senior year, I learned UGA doesn’t have one single story for a college experience. That alone was a deciding factor; there is so much to do and get involved in at UGA. I discovered that this school was one I could never be bored at and opportunities were endless. There is also much weight going to one of the top public schools in the nation.

My favorite things to do on campus are …
One of my favorite events on campus is UGA’s Dawgs After Dark since I love feeling like a kid again and building camaraderie with new peers. I think it also is therapeutic to knock people over in bubble soccer every now and then.

I also love supporting cultural events like Africa Night, Caribbean Night, and India Night or randomly looking for cool, enriching and thought-provoking lectures on campus given by professors and guest lecturers to our campus.

Last but not least, Tate time in Tate Student Center. A time where I can run into the majority of my friends and catch up on any given topic. It is a very easily one of the best ways I connect with people I don’t normally get to see in class or in an organization.

When I have free time, I like …
In my (rare) free time I do have, I like to spend it playing games in Spades, Speed or Gin Rummy, reading a thought-provoking book, watching a Ted talk, listening to podcasts, playing the piano, working on new mime routines, having fun doing the most random things with my friends, watching “Game of Thrones,” “Grey’s Anatomy” or “This Is Us” or playing a sport of any type. You can always find me playing intramural sports in Ramsey or the intramural fields.

One of my favorite things to do is to simply sit down and write my many thoughts out. I feel like I am constantly thinking of deeply rooted issues or circumstances in life that it is best expressed in writing to reflect on later. I encourage everyone to always find time for yourself and peace of mind to recharge in order to be the best version of yourself regardless of how packed your schedule may get.

The craziest thing I’ve done is …
… get in a big bathing pool with three large elephants and bathed them in Phuket, Thailand. I thought the large animals would crush in my rib cage, but they are actually some of the friendliest animals on the planet and one even wrapped her trunk around me gently and gave me a hug. A 10 for 10 experience!

My favorite place to study is … 
I am a consistent study floater because I love a new change of scenery and different vibes. My top few would be Walker’s coffee shop downtown, the Law Library as well as Tate Student Center’s Intersection area.

My favorite professor is … 
It is quite frankly too hard to pick one favorite professor at a school like UGA where so many amazing ones exist but I will spotlight two very close to my heart:

— The late professor Maria “Charo” Pozo-Hurtado. I took her “Accelerated Spanish” course the spring semester of my freshman year. Little did I know, I would be a part of the last class she would ever teach. She gained her wings months after we took our final exam after a long and hard fight with breast cancer. No one in the class had a clue what she was battling, but we did know how much she would radiate the entire classroom with her smiles, laughs and enthusiasm for learning Spanish each day. I learned so much from her inside of the classroom and the countless office hours I attended through my struggles of being fluent in Spanish, but what I learned outside of the classroom from her which is live everyday like it is your last and enjoy every moment of life even the simple things is something that will be everlasting in my life. Te amo.

— Professor Audrey Haynes. Dr. Haynes is a very well-known face in the political science department and across campus. I took her class twice, once my freshman year and the other my junior year because I enjoy her very much. I credit Dr. Haynes with giving me the passions of wanting to be involved in governmental affairs and politics. She is a very empowering and accomplished woman who so happened to do the same major as me in undergraduate at UGA as well. If I would not have taken her “American Government” class my freshman year (a class I did not need because of AP but I heard she was a great lecturer and I took regardless) I do not know if I ever would have truly discovered the passions I now have. I cannot thank her enough. She will always be my Facebook and lifelong friend. I will never forget when she took me and a couple of other students in her lecture class to Taste of India in downtown Athens to get to know us more. She is an incredible addition to the campus and the world.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
It would be a very close tie between the late Toni Morrison or James Baldwin. Both individuals were incredibly ahead of their time in literature and thought. Their works whether essays, novels, or quotes helped shape my life in times where I questioned nearly everything in life. Though both African American, I would argue their works are applicable to all people discovering their sense of self in this country. I suggest everyone read their works. It won’t disappoint.

If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… be a stand-up comedian. Getting paid to talk and make people laugh sounds like a dream to me. I could make subtle remarks on social issues I’m passionate about while having an open space to laugh about absolutely anything in our current lives. I think the solution to most of life’s problems is having a simple understanding for all people and circumstances and being willing to listen and I feel comedy is something everyone in this world shares and I could bring many people together with my shows. Please come my to free shows now before I make it big one day.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to … 
… travel the world accompanied with many people, specifically grade school students from my hometown community, who do not have the opportunity to expand their horizons. I would develop some form of nonprofit that would allow everyone to travel without the barrier of financial situations. I would stay in a new country every month with about 10 different people from my community and explore the cultures and ways of life of other people. My best friend, Courtney, wants to practice medicine in underserved areas around the world so together we can travel and make positive change.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
My passion is to better this world in forms of policy, advocacy and law for the underprivileged and overlooked. I am passionate about helping communities of most need of servitude. I want to be a voice to the voiceless and use my platform to work toward a better future that I imagine my kids and their kids being raised in. This is a very broad answer but I can see my career going many different ways, but my commitment to my core values will continue to inspire my work.

After graduation, I plan to … 
… work in government/politics for a few years then head to obtain my Juris Doctor and possibility a master’s in public or education policy. I certainly see public service in my future or perhaps political consulting and working in the legislature.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be … 
Countless times I have encountered stressed and worried prospective students of UGA on my tours and I am able to awaken possibility in their lives through the opportunity at UGA and beyond. Being a student that did not think UGA could be the place for me, I am very passionate about connecting people to their own potentials not only on our campus but in life. Whether they are looking for places for undergraduate or graduate school, finding a nice city to retire in, or simply in the state of Georgia for a few days and wanted to visit the birthplace of higher education in America, it is really unique to hear their stories and find common ground on a variety of things. I still keep up with many of my very special tour participants whether they ended up attending UGA or not. The feedback, text messages and emails I received the past three years of someone being inspired after my tour makes it all worthwhile. Being a tour guide for UGA improved my public speaking, taught me many life lessons and how to deal with crisis management. These experiences I will never forget. Thank you to our incredible bosses Eric (EJ), Natalie and Terri for selecting me to be a part of something so great.