Yolanda Covington-Ward

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI

high school: Strath Haven HS

college: Brown University

MAJOR: Afro-American Studies

GRAD. PROGRAM: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (2008, PhD)

In the ninth grade, Yolanda Covington left behind a combative neighborhood in the South Bronx for "A Better Chance Program" (ABC) at Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. Her determination to give back to the school made a lasting impression on her peers and teachers. Her high school counselor marvels "it is as though she’s lived another life, knows what it’s all about and has come back for a second time to show others how it should be done." To broaden her academic experience, Yolanda attended Villanova University’s Summer Scholars program in math and science. She later presented her work to the National Science Foundation. The following summer she was selected to participate in the LEAD program at the University of Pennsylvania where she was introduced to business as a career and visited corporations in the Mid-Atlantic States.

Beyond the classroom, Yolanda was active in band, the Harlem Dance Theatre, the Delaware County Leadership Collaborative, and the Human Relations Council. A natural champion of removing social barriers, she says that her most rewarding experience grew out of her four-year commitment to TOVA productions, a performance group founded to effect social change through the arts. "TOVA was special," she says, "because the actors were ordinary people telling their own stories." According to the director at TOVA, "Yolanda became an extremely positive role model for young men and women across the Delaware Valley."

Yolanda graduated from Brown University with honors majoring in Afro-American Studies. She has studied in Ghana and conducted ethnographic research on dance in Panama. She was a member and co-director of the best dance company on campus, "Fusion Dance Company." Currently, Yolanda is a second year graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. She was the recipient of the Andrew Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, as well as the Rackham Merit Fellowship from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she dances with Bichini Bia Congo, a Congolese Dance Company. In the words of one admirer, "Yolanda is clearly one of America’s future leaders."

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