At twenty-three, Naa-Jauh Benton, a graduate student at Tufts University, is determined to combat inequities. She had a strong start working in her teen years at the SB Action Center, and the Condon Community School and an internship with the Boston Police. Other than her time as a student, graduating with honors from Bridgewater State University, she has only lived in South Boston.
“I feel like the main thing I received here was an education” she said, and it began at the Condon School, “I still remember the core values of looking within yourself, knowing your strengths, and getting better and helping others. They contribute to who I am today, and I am thankful for Barbara Kelly and Deborah Flaherty who helped me develop my interest in community work. And, of course, my mother, Beverly Benton, is the main supporter in my life. She was alone and still taught us my brother, Quaddell, and me, right from wrong and she taught and protected us,” she said.
Continuing at Rogers Middle School and the Snowden International High School, Naa-Jauh takes education seriously as she continues in a Master’s in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Leadership at Tufts, and has her sights set on a PhD in Public Policy, preferably at Harvard.
“I hope to be someone who bridges and closes gaps,” she said. “I have seen how people are treated differently. There are more resources and access for the majority to important things like housing, and even basic information can be wrong. Look at the Seaport, and it is a fun place to go, but there is poverty and need right here, and you wonder how they connect, and who gets the needed attention. I am deeply bothered by injustice and discrimination and will work hard for change,” she said.
In whatever policy position she has, and one can imagine her choices will be many, Naa-Juah is bound to bring her reflective intelligence, love of cultures and the full experience of growing up in South Boston to the tasks at hand.
She also has other sustaining interests. “I like art and think about a small, side business in accessories, Croc charms, that kind of thing,” she said, but her energy quickly returns to world and local issues.
“I really love South Boston” she said even acutely aware of its pitfalls. “It is where I live and people I love. I also would like to travel to Cape Verde,” she said, “and learn more languages.” I only speak English, some Japanese and Spanish,”
It is understandable, given the world as it is, that many people of all ages and backgrounds disengage, but Naa-Juah Benton is not one of them.
“Yes, I see hope. I see it through education, and the way we can evolve as people. Small changes can still make a difference and contributing with compassion and diligence is good for the person and everyone else,” she said.
“I think Naa-Juah means something to do with excellence and prosperity, “she said.
Her mother had vision in the name and in the values she perpetuated. Naa-Juah’s leadership began at home and at the Condon School and through all her education since. It will undoubtedly lead to positive change in roles that she will work hard to achieve and will be exciting to see!