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2020 Scholarship & Grant Recipient Bios

A little about our recipients, in their own words!

Shalika Neelaveni
My name is Shalika Neelaveni from Loudoun County, VA. I recently graduated from Briar Woods High School and the Academy of Science.

As a rising college freshman, I plan on pursuing Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. I first developed an interest in STEM during middle school where I joined a robotics team. This led me to immerse myself in other STEM-related clubs and activities in high school where I joined Loudoun County’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, RoboLoCo. I concentrated in manufacturing/design, outreach, and communications, and later became President of RoboLoCo in my senior year. Through robotics, I focused on increasing awareness for Girls in STEM by participating in outreach events, developing curricula for Girl Scouts’ STEM merit badges, and advocating for increased funding of STEM education on a national level.

Beyond this, I work as the co-founder of Youth Adopt A Veteran, a non-profit to aid veterans by reintegrating them back into society with college educations and jobs. Hoping to create positive change in the veteran community, I am responsible for organizing fundraisers and mobilizing teams of students to help raise money and awareness. I am excited to continue to involve myself in STEM fields and community service endeavors through college and beyond!
ECF wishes you great success in your first year at the University of Pennsylvania, Shalika!
Ronald Ayers
Ronald Ayers is a 2020 graduate of Flint Hill School in Oakton, Virginia. Ronald loves the Lord and attributes everything he has been able to accomplish this far to God’s continuous blessings and favor. Throughout high school, Ronald was an active member of many clubs, however, he believes his most important role was being an active member of the Black Student Union (BSU). The goal of BSU was to make sure that young Black students’ voices were heard about challenges they faced within their high school community. Ronald was also a student athlete and served as co-captain of the Varsity Basketball Team.

For as long as he can remember, Ronald loved giving back to his community. He participated in the annual Rise Against Hunger campaign, where he assisted in packaging meals to feed people in developing nations. He also participated in the Lott Carey Youth Seminar each summer. During this program young people from all around join together on the campus of a Historically Black College for a week of serving, learning, worship, and fellowship. Ronald is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Vienna. He has participated in countless service trips within the church as well as being selected to participate in the nationally recognized Lott Carey mission trips. As a result of his heart for service, he was selected to the inaugural Youth Leadership Council for the youth department being an exemplar of transformative leadership to the youth. He also volunteers in the nursery on Sunday morning where he teaches toddlers biblical lessons. He is a vital element of the media ministry and often has to train others on the art of audio and video presentation. His selfless service through media ministry allows the Sunday morning livestream to reach a national audience.

Ronald plans to major in Business Administration in college. His future goal is to open a non-profit mentorship program where he would lead the charge to mentor young people and challenge them to work hard to achieve their goals in spite of any obstacles. He hopes to empower the next generation of young Black men and women to be strong, confident and courageous.
Ronald, we wish you well on your collegiate journey and look forward to seeing you reach your entrepreneurial dreams after graduation!
Jaylen Washington
Jaylen Washington is a graduating senior from Woodgrove High School, and will be attending Howard University in the fall.

Throughout her time in high school, Jaylen has been a part of the Community Service Board for student council, an At-Large member of class council, as well as an active participant in the Fine Arts. She was also a member of both National and Debate Honor Societies, as well as Modern Music Masters Honor Society.

Jaylen plans to major in Political Science and hopes to continue her education to law school.
Good luck to you, Jaylen at Howard and we look forward to calling you Jaylen Washington, Esq. in the future!
Alanah Jackson
Alanah Jackson will be attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio to study Nursing and Spanish.

She hopes to one day become a midwife and open her own birth center, providing services to families of all races, but specifically families of color and Spanish-speaking families.

In high school, Alanah was the drum major of her marching band as well as president of her school’s chapter of United Sound, a nonprofit organization that teaches students with special needs how to play instruments. She also participated in National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society and clubs including Black Student Union and Habitat For Humanity.

During this past year, Alanah became a birth doula, learning how to provide assistance for laboring women during and after birth. In her free time, Alanah enjoys traveling, cooking, writing, and spending time with family.
Good luck at Case Western this Fall, Alanah, and we hope all of your career dreams come true!
Ashanti Guyton
My name is Ashanti Guyton and I am honored and humbled that I have been selected for the Educational and Charitable Foundation (“ECF”) Teacher Grant.

I am a lifelong learner as I have several degrees and certificates in the field of Education. I received my Applied Associate Degree in Early Childhood Development from Tidewater Community College. I then received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Special Education and my Master of Art in Severe Disabilities (the first in my family to receive) both from Norfolk State University. I continued my education goals by receiving my Education Specialist Degree in Education Administration Leadership from Capella University. I did not stop there as I decided to get my Board-Certified Behavior Analyst Certificate from St. Joseph’s University. Recently, I also received certificates for Curriculum and Assessment and Integrating Technology in the Classroom from Walden University.

I have been teaching in the special education field for 15 years. I have taught diverse groups from emotionally disabled students and students with autism to students with specific learning disabilities. I started my teaching career in special education because when my son was only 2 years old, he had great difficulty expressing himself and letting me know what he wanted or needed. This caused him to act out and misbehave. I wanted to learn how to help him, and researching to see what services were available led me to this field, and I love it! I am married and a mother of four (my son is now 22 and living on his own 😊).

Through my years of teaching, I have learned the importance of providing all students with the opportunity to learn how to become more independent and increase their communication and social skills. As an educator, it requires that I provide students with the proper materials and instructions to bring out each individual student’s strengths and skills that are untapped within themselves.

I am so grateful to have been chosen to receive this grant which will enable me to continue to meet the needs of my students.
Thank you Ms. Guyton for your continued commitment to educating America’s future!
David Banks
David Jamaal Banks is an Elementary School Educator with Fairfax County Public Schools where he focuses on early elementary instruction. He has been an educator for over ten years and has successful implemented programs impacting hundreds of students from diverse communities. He is currently working with the third grade team at Hollin Meadows Elementary School.

Previously, David has led by example at Mosby Woods ES, Forest Edge ES, and Herndon ES, where he conducted team meetings to build teacher capacity and increase student achievement. Prior to being a team leader, he was a second grade and fifth grade teacher at Title 1 schools. David has also led initiatives to the development of mentor groups, parent educational workshops, and an engineering for students underrepresented in the STEM field.

He received his Masters in Educational Leadership from George Mason University and holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Communications from Virginia State University. David is originally from Bergen County, NJ. For fun, he plays basketball and travels around the globe with family and friends.”
Mr. Banks will use this grant to provide students at Hollin Meadows Elementary School books that culturally represent their identity!
Clare Idehen
As a fourth-year medical student at Morehouse School of Medicine, Clare Idehen is inspired to dedicate her career towards addressing issues related to health equity. In 2016, Ms. Idehen graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Biological Sciences and a minor in Black Studies. While in undergraduate, she was involved in several activist-driven organizations aimed at educating the campus community around mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline as they relate to funding for higher education.

As a medical student, she has continued this dedication to working around issues of mass incarceration through helping pilot and serving as the Program Director for a service initiative called Prison Praxis, aimed at building a network of healthcare student and professional support for incarcerated populations in the state of Georgia. Similarly, Ms. Idehen is actively involved in advocacy focused medical organizations such as the Social Medicine Consortium, Health Students Taking Action Together (H-STAT) and the American Medical Association.
Clare plans to pursue a career in primary care through Medicine-Pediatrics (Med-Peds) and incorporate tackling social determinants of health into her future practice.
Clare, ECF wishes you continued success in your final year at Morehouse School of Medicine!