June 28, 2017 • Anonymous
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As a senior at Woodland High School Nikki Josephs received a Black Scholar Award from the Black Scholars Community Partnership Initiative. Skip ahead to this past June and the Manhattanville College professor found herself speaking to this year's scholars.
"It was a surprise and an honor to be asked to provide a few words as keynote speaker at this year’s 31st annual awards celebration!" Josephs said, "It took me a few months to get my head around what I wanted to share with this year’s honorees."
To figure out what to say, she turned to the Nina Simone song, "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black," which was the theme to this year’s celebration. She also strived to convey the importance and exclusivity of the recognition to each of the students.
"I wanted my words to inspire each Black Scholar to continue to work hard and aim to be the best citizen they can," Josephs said, "Also, I wanted to be sure to recognize them for getting to this point in their lives and to celebrate them for their achievement."
In order to receive the award, each scholar has to be recommended for the award by a teacher, guidance counselor, or community member, meaning that someone had to recognize their hard work and potential. Josephs remembers not fully appreciating what that meant when she was in high school, and knowing how pivotal the award was to her and her family at the time decided to thank the Black Scholars Community Partnership Initiative as well.
"Coming back to speak to the honorees and the Black Scholar Committee meant I could say congratulations to those new inductees, but also, personally say 'thank you' to the committee members who saw something in me that I did not see in myself as a young person," she said. She explained that the money from the award paid for her books her first year in college.
The Black Scholars Community Partnership Initiative is a coalition of 21 Westchester County based African-American organizations dedicated to promoting, supporting, and rewarding African –American students and their academic achievements. Each year the organization honors more than 300 high school seniors and teachers at its annual award reception.
Josephs is an assistant professor of special education at Manhattanville College’s School of Education, and teaches graduate-level courses in classroom management, instructional strategies, transition to post high-school life for students with disabilities, and research techniques. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies education and a master’s in special education from SUNY New Paltz, and a Ph.D. in education of children with exceptionalities from Georgia State University.
School of Education