Sonjia Colson, Class of 2017, Is Ready to Lead
As a young girl from a rural small town, she had no plans of going to college, but when Sonjia Colson crossed the stage with hundreds of her classmates her dreams came true.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Colson is poised to become a teacher. She’s ready to return to her hometown of Rougemont, North Carolina, and make the same sort of impact on students that Shaw has made on her.
Her journey started like this. As a high school senior, Colson had applied to several colleges, but as the rejection letters came in the mail, she was ready to give up. A counselor suggested Shaw to her, and it turned out to be just the right fit.
"Shaw University gave me a chance for a post-secondary education when it felt like no other university would," she says. "It is the best decision I have ever made."
Now Colson graduated with honors, and she left behind big shoes to fill.
In her time as a Shaw Bear, she gave more than 300 hours of community service to the Shaw University Child Development Center, and she served as a resident advisor in Talbert O. Shaw Women’s Dormitory. Colson also got involved in a number of campus organizations. She was selected sophomore class president and Miss Junior in the Student Government Association. She was president of the Honors College and was named Miss Honors College. She also was president of Sigma Alpha Pi National Society of Leadership and Success, a member of Alpha Chi Honor Society, and a member of Kappa Delta Pi International Education Society.
Colson says she is thankful for relationships she's built within the Shaw family, particularly with alumni, the career development team, her classmates and professors. But it was the late Dr. Kim Leathers, director of the Honors College, who encouraged her to have courage and confidence and to step out in leadership. That mentorship made the most impact on her.
"She was an important part of my success here and she basically raised me from a freshman until the beginning of my senior year," Colson says. "She taught me so much that I will never forget."
Looking forward to the weeks and years following her graduation, Colson is ready to undertake her dream of becoming an elementary teacher. She plans to move back to her hometown and serve the community where her family has lived for generations. After gaining experience as an educator, she plans to return to graduate school herself, hopefully participating in the N.C. Principal Fellows Program.
"Shaw nurtured my educational goals," she says. "Before coming here, I just wanted to be a teacher, but now I have even bigger goals. I want to become a principal or superintendent, earn a doctoral degree and open my own charter school connected to an HBCU. With the help of Shaw University, I have the knowledge and strength to not only dream but achieve."
When asked about Colson in the summer of 2016, her mentor, Dr. Leathers, was assured of her ability to succeed.
"She believes in Shaw and we believe in her," Leathers said. "She’ll be a dedicated alumna, and she’ll be a really good representative of Shaw University."
Indeed, she will be.