First Women Scholar speaks about her Lafayette experience and future plans.
By Jill Spotz
To say Jada Peters ’24, recipient of the First Women of Scholarship, is busy is an understatement. Peters, who will be graduating this spring, is majoring in government and law with a minor in religious studies. She currently serves as president of NIA, Women of Purpose, a student-led organization for women of color on campus; is a member of the Prestigious Pardettes dance team and member of ABC; attends Lafayette African and Caribbean Students Association and Bohio Association meetings; is a tutor with America Reads and a cook for dining services.
Peters’ positivity and desire to give back is reflected in everything she does. Whether she is spending extra time at March Elementary School to help students with classwork or mentoring underclassmen in NIA, her altruistic demeanor comes through in her schoolwork, co-curricular activities, and relationships with faculty, staff, and students.
After graduating from Lafayette this spring, Peters plans to take a gap year to teach English internationally in South Africa or Central America before attending law school. Her decision to do so was inspired by her experience with America Reads.
Peters, along with three additional Lafayette students, resurrected an America Reads program at March Elementary School that was created by former Lafayette student Adam Finkelstein ’20 called Leaders in Me. The after-school program offers students the opportunity to learn about community through reading and participation in a weekly activity.
“I really enjoy working with students through America Reads,” Peters explains. “Many kids go through challenges. Some children are dealing with poverty, and it takes a lot for them to be their authentic selves in school. I just want to be a support system. If a student is having an off day, I want to be there for them. I want to make sure that every student is given a fair shot. I think back to when I was in school, and oftentimes students who were labeled as problem kids weren’t at all. They just couldn’t communicate the problems that they were experiencing. Sometimes teachers didn’t give them grace. I try to give kids grace and be there to support them.”
Last year, Peters served as an Open Education Fellow through Skillman Library. Based on a program goal of ultimately providing equitable access to education resources for all students, Peters was among the first cohort of fellows. She collected data from Lafayette professors about their current teaching materials and knowledge of open access resources to gain a baseline of what types of educational materials are currently available to students. Current fellows are continuing Peters’ great work.
“The fellowship was a terrific experience,” Peters says. “Through participation in the program, I was able to attend a conference on open access at Muhlenberg College this past summer where I was able to network and expand my knowledge. It is really important for all students to have access to all education resources that are available to them.”
Peters’ path to Lafayette was initiated through The Opportunity Network, a program she found through her high school in Brooklyn, N.Y. Prior to this connection, Peters visited Lafayette as a sophomore during Rivalry week. She subsequently met with a former admissions staff member, Christina Ursino, during her junior year and participated in Lafayette’s annual Our Beloved Community (OBC) event as a senior. She was impressed by the student events that were taking place during this time, and she decided to add the school to her list of options. She applied ED and hasn’t looked back since.
“I realized after visiting Lafayette during OBC that this was a space where I could find community,” Peters explains. “That stood out to me. I was able to meet people during OBC who I could see myself spending time with. I met the president of NIA at the time as well as my roommate. I really got to see the school for what it is—a small community on a beautiful campus. I really enjoyed the experience, and it’s what sealed the deal for me.”
Lafayette’s close-knit community has enabled Peters to form bonds with professors and staff during her time on College Hill. She is grateful for the care and support provided by favorite professors in government and law Bruce Allen Murphy, Joshua Miller, and Seo-Hyun Park, and Robert Blunt in religious studies.
Peters also credits the support she has received from fellow dining services staff, who have gone out of their way to ensure she has access to meals over the summer when dining halls are closed.
“In addition to faculty, there are staff members whom I cherish,” Peters says. “They have always been there to provide support. I am grateful to Christine Cohen in the Landis Center, Dean Tim Cox, Robert Young ’14 and Karina Fuentes in intercultural development, Louise Frazier in admissions, and Jennifer Rock in development and college relations. And I will miss my talks with Melissa Garrison and Jake Bates from Student Life. I think staff does so much more than their assigned jobs. Sometimes they are the only branch that students have. They create deeper relationships because students live on campus. So many faculty and staff have been willing to check in on me and see if I need anything.”
Peters’ favorite Lafayette memory is bonding with peers as a first-year student during COVID. “Although it had its challenges, experiencing quarantine during my first semester on campus provided wonderful memories,” Peters says. “Everybody took the time to make connections with each other. We would sit on the Quad with our speakers, play double dutch, and dance. It was a wonderful time to meet new people.”
Peters says her second favorite memory has yet to occur. She will be attending the Global Senegal: Alternative Modernities program with Prof. Wendy Wilson-Fall over January break.
“I am looking forward to this trip because I have heard so much about it, and many people I know are participating,” Peters says. “I know this experience will be among my favorite experiences at Lafayette.”