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Meet UVA’s Newest Ridley Scholars

The Walter N. Ridley Scholarship Program, a foundation dedicated to strengthening the University of Virginia by attracting and supporting Black students of the highest caliber, has announced this year’s new Ridley Scholars.

Five of the new Ridley Scholars arrived as part of the first-year class, while two received the honor as rising third-year students. Each went through a competitive, multistep selection process. All are women, all but one are from Virginia.

They will receive scholarships covering their full tuition and related fees while attending the University of Virginia and the opportunity to take part in the Ridley Scholar Experience, an array of enrichment programs that includes foreign travel and career networking.

The First-Years

Sophia Chambliss of Mechanicsville, recipient of the Ridley Bryce Scholarship, studied in the International Baccalaureate program at Atlee High School, where she also captained the varsity cheer team. A dancer who has performed with Richmond-area and Central Virginia dance companies, she co-founded Brown Ballerinas for Change, which encourages members of underrepresented populations to participate in ballet and uses dance as a form of advocacy. Chambliss plans to major in biology and pursue a career in health care.

Mary Hall of Chesterfield, recipient of the Ridley Reid Scholarship, served as Student Government Association vice president and founded the Black Indigenous and People of Color Student Union at Monacan High School, where she was inducted into the National Honor Society. She plans to major in politics and pursue her interests in social justice and civil equity.

Zoë Jenkins, recipient of the Holland Blackburn Scholarship, is a National Honor Society graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. The National Geographic Society awarded her a Young Explorer’s grant in support of the “Get Schooled” podcast she created with her school’s voice team, focusing on problems and solutions in education, one of her several high school ventures.

Gabriella Watson of Chesterfield graduated from Richmond’s Maggie Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, a public school for gifted students. She served on its School Advisory Council, Campus Life During COVID Committee and Removing Structural Barriers Committee. A recipient of the Richmond Ridley Clarence Cain Scholarship, she plans to major in chemistry or biology, with plans of being a pharmacist by day and author by night.

Taylor Whirley of Midlothian, this year’s other Ridley Reid Scholarship recipient, was active in James River High School’s Center for Leadership & International Relations. She plans to build on that experience by applying to UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy when eligible and hopes to go to law school. Her high school activities included leadership positions in show choir and the Spanish club.

The Third-Years

Tracy Agyemang of Woodbridge is the recipient of the Gregory Ledford Ridley Scholarship, designated for third-year students entering UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. Raised in New York as well as the commonwealth, she is a world traveler and a women’s rugby player. She plans to concentrate her studies in marketing and information technology while also taking a track in real estate.

Kennedy Carter of Goochland received the Sylvia V. Terry Scholarship, awarded to third-year students demonstrating leadership, a strong record of community service and significant mentoring experience. An architecture student with a desire to start her own firm, she is involved with the Office of African-American Affairs’ Peer Advisor Program, the Black Student Alliance and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

“Since the Ridley Scholarship Program’s inception, our scholars have made significant contributions to the University that have transformed Grounds and improved the overall student experience,” said 2003 alumna Consuelo A. Kendall, Ridley’s board chair and a corporate attorney in Maryland. “We are excited to welcome these new scholars into the Ridley family, and we are confident that they will uphold Dr. Ridley’s legacy.”

Established in 1987 in ongoing partnership with the UVA Alumni Association, the Walter N. Ridley Scholarship Program is named for the first Black graduate of the University. The program, which seeks to attract the nation’s top Black students, has awarded more than 300 scholarships and, as of the past fiscal year, holds assets of $14.2 million.

This article also appeared in UVA Today on August 30, 2021.