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Students honored by UGA Black Faculty and Staff Organization

Kristen B. Morales

September 23, 2016

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Three College of Education graduate students were recently honored at this year's Black Faculty and Staff Organization's Founders Day Awards.

Jasmine Jenkins and Tameka Oliphant, doctoral students in the department of counseling and human development services, received graduate student awards at the BFSO's annual luncheon on Sept. 9. And Mansur Buffins, a third-year student in the social studies education program, was given the Mark Dawkins Leadership Award.

The event featured keynote speaker Shirley Sherrod, executive director for the Southwest Georgia Project and vice president of development for New Communities at Cypress Pond. She is a former state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The scholarship is one of many accolades Jenkins has acquired over the years, including scholar awards as an undergraduate at Spelman College in Atlanta and, more recently, the winner of her current department's Gazda Award. She has also served in leadership roles in Spelman's Women in Neuroscience student organization, participated in the NIH-funded research training program NET/work and volunteered in Haiti. She received her master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in counseling psychology.

Within the field of psychology, Jenkins' passion lies in ending the school-to-prison pipeline that has become too common among African-American youth. As a master's student at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenkins says she came to realize that in addition to the racial injustices of incarceration—for example, 58 percent of African-American youth are admitted to adult prisons, even though they comprise 26 percent of juvenile arrests—there are also mental health injustices within the criminal justice system.

Oliphant also selected the College of Education for her Ph.D. in counseling and student personnel services because of the program's emphasis on social justice and advocacy. She began her career as a middle school English teacher in rural south Louisiana for Teach for America, and later worked as a high school counselor. These experiences inspired her to research the needs of students in rural communities, including college and career access as well as students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Her part-time job at Foothills Education Charter School in Athens allows her to work with students who might otherwise fall through the cracks in a more traditional educational setting.

Other accolades Oliphant has received include the Fanning Fellowship and a Minority Fellow for the National Board of Certified Counselors. She also received the College of Education's Del Jones Memorial Scholarship and is a research team leader in her department.

Buffins, a dual major in African-American studies and social studies education, launched the Young Black Kings mentor program last year that connects black male UGA students with students at Clarke Middle School. He is also president of the UGA chapter of the NAACP and serves on the student advisory board for the UGA Division of Student Affairs.

This is the 14th year the BFSO has offered scholarships, which are funded by the annual luncheon. The event draws hundreds to the Tate Center every year and typically awards one scholarship each at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels, although this year both student awards were given at the graduate level.