Students Forge Connections with Congressional Black Caucus

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Left to right: Makayla Bibby (BA ‘24), Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-VA 4th District), Zachary Harris (BA ‘24)

In a weekend filled with inspiration and networking, 12 graduate and undergraduate students from the Batten School and the College of Arts & Sciences embarked on a transformative journey to the 52nd Annual Legislative Conference hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington D.C. 

The conference provided a dynamic setting for students to engage with an extraordinary gathering of visionaries, activists, and leaders who are shaping the future of critical issues at the intersection of social justice, economic empowerment, and cultural celebration of the American Black community. This included the opportunity to hear from influential voices in Congress and connect with UVA and Batten alumni working in public policy.  

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Left to right: Hannah Carter (BA ‘25), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC 12th District), Aliza Diop  (BA ‘25)

Students participated in a series of impactful breakout sessions, enabling them to delve into the specific policy topics that aligned with their interests. For Amber Townes (MPP ‘24), this included a session called “Don’t Build A Jail For Me: Prevention Not Detention,” which featured American television journalist Don Lemon, Dr. Peloton Moss, Senior Professorial Lecturer of Education Policy & Leadership at American University, Kristin Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice, and Olivis Igbokwe-Curry, head of Congressional and Political Affairs at Amazon Web Services. 

“This panel specifically had me engaged because of its shocking statistics and facts about systemic detention issues within U.S. schools,” said Townes. “I had the chance to learn about relevant policy issues affecting the Black community like reparations, gun violence, mental health, and more. I gained new perspectives and even reconsidered some of my current perspectives as I was around all kinds of people from advocates, activists, congressional leaders, community leaders, and more.” 

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Left to right: Makayla Bibby (BA ‘24), Rep. Terri Sewell  (D-AL 7th District), 
Amber Townes (MPP ‘24), Tyler Sesker (MPP ‘24)

Townes continued, “As a public policy student and public servant, this conference was so important for me to attend as I got the opportunity to engage and connect with others who share the same vision for the Black community. I will never forget this experience and will cherish the many connections I made.”

The Congressional Black Caucus conference allowed Batten students to grow as future policy leaders, as well as learn from others who share their cultural backgrounds and experiences. They returned to Grounds with not just new knowledge but a renewed sense of purpose, a broader perspective, and a network of fellow changemakers. 


Garrett Hall at Sunset

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