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Spelman College Announces the Inaugural Recipients of the John Lewis Scholarship Share a Spelman College Press Release


Jazmyn Burton
(404) 798-5212
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia

John Lewis Scholars Spelman CollegeATLANTA (September 28, 2020) -- Five students enrolled in Spelman’s Social Justice Fellows Program have been selected to receive scholarships named in honor of Congressman John Lewis. Developed for students who exemplify a commitment to social justice, the endowed scholarship provides a one-time tuition contribution of $10,000 to five Social Justice Fellows each year.

The 2020 cohort of inaugural scholars includes seniors Maya Barnes, Keymari Johnson, Tekiah McClary, and Rayven Peterson, and junior Alix Swann.

"In their own way, each scholar exemplifies the commitment to social justice concerns that distinguished the life and work of Congressman John Lewis,” said Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., C’78, associate professor of sociology and director of Spelman’s Social Justice Fellows Program.  “The newly selected scholars' areas of interest include voting rights, environmental justice, health disparities and mental health policy advocacy. We believe that Congressman Lewis would be proud to know that these young scholar-activists are carrying on his legacy.”

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman, announced the creation of the John Lewis Scholarship shortly after the Congressman’s death in July.

“Congressman Lewis brought his heart, body and soul to his life’s work. As a young man, he was a global ambassador for nonviolent protests as a path to eradicate injustice,” Dr. Campbell wrote in a message to the Spelman Community. “As a Congressman, he never lost an opportunity to champion equity for all of his constituents. He never stopped fighting.”

Spelman’s Social Justice Fellows Program is a living and learning initiative designed to create opportunities for a select group of Spelman students who are dedicated to changing the world through advocacy.

Through the program, students representing varied disciplinary areas are selected to participate in social justice advocacy internships, monthly colloquia experiences, book discussions and social entrepreneurship project design activities. The program equips students with an understanding of how to effect change at the social, political, and legal policy levels, both nationally and globally.

Meet the Scholars 

Maya Barnes Spelman John Lewis Scholar
Maya Barnes, C’2021, Environmental Studies Major
Medford, Massachusetts
Barnes’ social justice advocacy is focused on the built environment and environmental justice. As a Social Justice Program Associate, she has been involved in Unlocked Minds, a group that focuses on criminal justice reform through fellowship and book club discourse.

Keymari Johnson Spelman John Lewis ScholarKeymari Johnson, C'2021, Economics Major
Lexington, Kentucky
Johnson is in her second year of serving as the campus leader for the Andrew Goodman Foundation to promote civic engagement. Her advocacy work, which is focused on voter rights, includes creating voter registration drives, panel discussions about civic engagement and events to inform students about voter suppression.

Tekiah McClary Spelman John Lewis ScholarTekiah McClary, C'2021, Biology Major
Orangeburg, South Carolina
McClary is a member of the Social Justice Program through the LINCS Scholars Program. The work and legacy of Representative John Lewis has been influential in her involvement in social justice. Her advocacy interests include raising funds annually for the March of Dimes and participating in voter registration drives.

Rayven Peterson Spelman John Lewis ScholarsRayven Peterson, C’2021, Psychology Major
Dayton, Ohio
Peterson is a certified mental health first aid and peer counselor, with an interest in mental health advocacy. She serves her community through several activities including volunteering at Brown Middle School and KIPP Strive Primary Academy in Atlanta, as well as at the Dayton Metro Library in Ohio. 

Alix Swann, C’2022, International Studies Major
Alix Swann Spelman John Lewis ScholarSilver Spring, Maryland
Alix Swann is a youth advocate and student activist. Swann works to bring civic engagement to the Atlanta University Center through the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which furthers the 1964 Freedom Summer mission, and through AUC Votes, a coalition of non-partisan civic engagement-oriented organizations in the AUC. Her research interests focus primarily on the overlapping impacts of trauma, anxiety, and empathy, and how they affect Black students' success in the education system.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete PhDs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women PhDs in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit


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