While in college I saw the needs of my hometown community of inner-city Rochester, as there was a lot of violence and displacement, and I lost two family members and almost lost others. As a result, in 2014, I implemented an initiative to aid youth between the ages of 12-21, Teens In Progress (TIP), to shed light on bullying, violence, and suicide, to connect with youth where they would be heard and have a platform from which to speak. My ultimate goal was to go to law school; I initially wanted to be a prosecutor, but then I interned at the Public Defender’s office and had a chance to really see what real life people—not stories in a textbook—went through in the judicial process. I questioned if the blind lady of justice wasn’t so blind, especially when it comes to the racial identity and socioeconomic status of defendants.

I participated in three different research projects at RIT: Analyzing student comments for gender biases in the College of Science; for the Center for Public Safety Initiatives, I researched Street Outreach and how effective it is in reaching gangs; a literature review with the Criminal Justice department on women seeking behavior in intimate partner violence. I ultimately wanted to understand the needs of society and how I might be able to dedicate my time and efforts through my support, care, and humbleness.

I have found my calling, and that is to help and not to hinder. Therefore, I am an advocate (Workforce Navigator) for youth at The Center for Youth, giving youth between the ages of 17-24 a chance to turn their lives around by helping them become more employable as well as educated. 

Awards received: Matthew Sullivan Award-Criminal Justice, Frederick Douglass Scholarship (3rd Place), McNair Outstanding Student Award, Outstanding 4th year student of the year-HEOP, Alfred L. and Ruby C. Davis Leadership Scholarship Award, Kathleen M. Keyes Award, Isaac L.  Jordan Sr. Award Memorial Scholarship Award, Woman of The Year Award (WOCHA), Legacy Leader.


Ja’Nai Gray

Double major: Sociology & Anthropology and Criminal Justice (Class of 2016)