Malcolm/King Award Winner Bianca Hayles ’20 Hopes to Advance Educational Equity and Criminal Justice Reform

Malcolm/King Award Winner Bianca Hayles ’20 Hopes to Advance Educational Equity and Criminal Justice Reform

Malcolm/King Award Winner Bianca Hayles ’20 Hopes to Advance Educational Equity and Criminal Justice Reform

In celebration of Black History Month, our entire community is recognizing the incredible achievements and contributions African-Americans have made to this country. Aiming for a future that fully embodies the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we’re also applauding the work our students, faculty, staff, and alumni are doing to continue this proud legacy. The College is hosting a series of events during the month of February exploring the African-American experience, its history, and its impact on culture; including Education Emcees: Hip Hop and Community Building; AfroLatinidad; and an African-American Military Heritage Luncheon. The month-long celebration culminates with the 30th Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast on February 28, which honors the legacy of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and recognizes the intellect and determination of our student award winners.

In anticipation of the Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast, we spoke with this year’s award winners to understand what Black History Month means to them and to learn how they hope to advance the work of the African-American leaders that have come before them. Next in our series is Bianca Hayles ’20, a Political Science major determined to go on to earn both a law degree and master’s in social work in order to open a nonprofit focused on leveling the educational playing field and helping youth of color reach their full potential. 

“I feel honored to be African-American and know that such greatness came before me.” —Bianca Hayles

February is Black History Month. What does it mean to you to celebrate the many achievements African-Americans have contributed to this country?
I feel honored to be African-American and know that such greatness came before me. To know that such resilient, creative, and innovative human beings paved a pathway to success for future generations, like me, to pursue our dreams and achieve great things is empowering. And, to learn how African-Americans helped build this country, and have contributed transformative ideas throughout history, it makes me so proud.

What goals do you have for advancing equality and fairness for all people, especially African-Americans? 
I want to be a lawyer and also a licensed social worker, and I want to combine the two disciplines to help youth—especially youth of color—achieve their academic and career dreams. My goal is to create my own nonprofit where I can work to advance educational equity and criminal justice reform. I’m also hoping to mentor African-American youth, who I feel are often overlooked and dismissed. I want to help them reach their highest potential.

If you could have dinner with a leader in African-American history, who would it be and what would you want to ask or say to them?
Without hesitation, I would invite Michelle Obama to dinner. Her intellect, her grace, her wisdom, and how she carries herself is something to aspire to. She’s a powerful African-American woman who has done great things to advance education and inspire others to be better and do more for their communities. One of my favorite things about Michelle Obama is how she’s able to connect with people on a very human level. She really is awe-inspiring.

“Winning the Malcolm/King award is a confirmation for me that I’m on the right path to becoming a leader that impacts people on a holistic level.” —Bianca Hayles

What does it mean to you to receive the Malcolm/King Award? 
Winning this award means so many things. It will certainly help with my applications for law school and applying for my master’s in social work. But on a more personal level, winning the Malcolm/King award is a confirmation for me that I’m on the right path to becoming a leader that impacts people on a holistic level. I have sat in the audience at this award ceremony since I was a freshman, and each time I walked away feeling inspired by the speakers and winners. And, I remember my freshman year, thinking to myself, I hope I can be there one day. So to be named a winner in my senior year feels amazing and very much like a full-circle moment for me.

If everything goes according to plan, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to be changing the world as a practicing attorney in New York City with my MSW and my own nonprofit firm. I see myself focused on youth of color and ensuring they’re learning in an education system that has leveled the playing field in terms of educational equity. And, for criminal-justice involved youth, I want to advocate on their behalf. I want to pour love, effort, and support into their educational and life journey so they can achieve their dreams.