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Hampton University Journalism Student Jamaija Rhoades Wins Pulitzer Center Fellowship

Jamaija Rhoades

HAMPTON, Va. (Mar. 1, 2021) – Hampton University student Jamaija Rhoades has won a Pulitzer Center Fellowship and will partner with journalism experts to examine racism in the Richmond, Va., school system. Pulitzer Center staff and editors will advise her throughout the process and act as her mentors. Her final project will be featured on the center’s website as well as on the website for the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

“We are incredibly proud of Ms. Jamaija Rhoades for winning this distinguished fellowship. Her proposal to report on racism in education in the Richmond school system reflects the university’s values of respect and inclusion of all people. We know that Ms. Rhoades will continue to live up to our university commitment to 'Dream no Small Dream' as she forges her unique path,” said Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey.

Rhoades is a senior journalism student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications from Midlothian, Va. She has written for the Hampton University newspaper, The Script, and Her Campus, a weekly magazine.

In her proposal, Rhoades wrote: “I would like to write a story that focuses on how Richmond’s history of discrimination and racism lives on through the city’s school system.”

The project will focus on racial disparities in the district, including the difference between the resources available for schools with a higher percentage of students living in poverty versus the resources available to more affluent schools. Additionally, she wants to examine the results of a study conducted by the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, which indicates that Richmond black students are suspended four times more than white students.

"We're excited to partner with Hampton University and want to congratulate Jamaija Rhoades. Exploring the impact of discrimination and racism on the Richmond school system is ambitious and challenging, and Jamaija, a journalism major, is uniquely qualified to take this on. She has deep ties to Richmond and is herself a graduate of Richmond public schools,” Kem Sawyer, Contributing Editor and Director of the Reporting Fellows Program, said in an email.

“Recent events have only underscored the importance of her topic. Reporting on racial justice is core to the Pulitzer Center mission—we look forward to adding Jamaija's project to our portal [pulitzercenter.org] on this issue,” Sawyer said.

Her research will include interviews from Richmond teachers who can “speak to the disparities and the lack of resources provided for black students and how this has affected the district’s graduation rates and scores on standardized tests.” Because of the pandemic, much of the work for the project will be done virtually

Hampton University first partnered with the Pulitzer Center in 2020. The first fellowship was awarded to Sara Avery who proposed writing about 3-D printed houses being produced in Haiti for the homeless. 

The fellowship is through the Campus Consortium, which is a network of partnerships between the Pulitzer Center and universities and colleges to engage with students and faculty on the critical global issues of our time. The consortium’s aim is to connect international reporting supported by the Pulitzer Center directly with communities across the United States to expand knowledge of the world, spark conversations across disciplines and inspire individuals to expand their horizons. Hampton University is a Campus Consortium partner.

Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications Assistant Professor Lynn Waltz helped Rhoades with the fellowship application. “Jamaija Rhoades is an excellent reporter who comes up with unique stories that no other students have thought of,” Waltz said. “For instance, she wrote about African Americans who think the statue of Robert E. Lee should stay in Richmond, Virginia because the graffiti makes it a new icon for this century. She truly wants to make a difference with her work. Her proposal about racial disparities in the education system in Richmond was very appealing to the Pulitzer Center selection committee.”

The Dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, Ms. B. Da’Vida Plummer, is excited for Rhoades. "We are very grateful to the Pulitzer Center for its work with the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications and with Jamaija. Her examination of racism in the Richmond school system is aligned with our effort to launch a Center for Investigative Journalism within the School,” Dean Plummer said.

Rhoades is excited about being accepted into the program, calling it an “honor.” 

“Not only do I get the chance to work with some of the best journalists in the world, but I also get to shed light on my hometown,” she wrote in her application. “I get to use my platform to highlight the issues within the school system that have shaped me into what I am today.”

Rhoades said she wants to bring awareness around the issues of systemic racism in the educational system and “create change for a community of people who are often overlooked and mislabeled.” The fellowship, she wrote, is giving her that chance.

Rhoades is expected to graduate from Hampton University in May 2021. Her project will be completed by mid-summer.