Dr. B.J. Bryson - All Together One Recipient
By: Christine Borkowski
Do you know someone who is dedicated to learning, builds community and inspires others in the process? Does the same person make a commitment to team work as well as promote a feeling of caring? All of these are the guiding principles of the people who win Madison’s “All Together One Award” annually.
The All Together One Award was created in 2000 by the members of the JMU Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society. Each spring, the student members of ODK host this event, which is special to the organization as well as its recipients. Any member of the JMU community can nominate JMU faculty, staff and students using the above principles as guidelines and the winner is selected from the nominations.
Dr. B. J. Bryson, a social work professor of six years, was honored to receive the award. “I was very moved that somebody thought of me in that way because I simply just do what I do every day.” Dr. Bryson, every day, makes a commitment to her social work students as well as the students from other schools. With her Youth Empowerment Strategies (YES) class, Dr. Bryson and her students visit the nearby Waynesboro High School for what they call The Purple and Gold Connection. “Their colors and our colors [both purple and gold] make a connection between their students and our students,” Bryson explained.
The Purple and Gold Connection mentors and mentees recently got to embark on a day trip to Washington, D.C. “Some of the mentors got to know their mentees better,” Dr. Bryson described. “One of the mentees told a story about how her mentor didn’t know she had a passion for art. They passed the Freer Gallery, went in, and they appreciated the art together.” Both parties benefited by learning something new about each other.
What is also exciting about The Purple and Gold Connection is that sustainability has been added to their curriculum. “We’re getting some support around that. We want to help students understand why science, math and technology are interesting and important.” Dr. Bryson said. These lessons, along with the valuable life lessons the high school students are learning, will contribute to their understanding of environmental protection in years to come.
Dr. Bryson also teaches a JMU course about social welfare history. “It has a lot to do with poverty, internationally and locally,” Dr. Bryson explained. As part of their experience with YES and social welfare history, Dr. Bryson’s social work students gain practical skills at Waynesboro High School. “Some of the students do workshops with anything from cyber bullying to how to talk to teachers to study habits,” Dr. Bryson said. “We have data that shows improvement over the two to three years we have been doing this.”
“Dr. Bryson is excellent to have as a professor. Her classes are informative and helpful in furthering our education,” Jessica Clegg said. Jessica travels to Waynesboro High School where she acts as a mentor for Dr. Bryson’s YES class. “I feel that I have gained knowledge from having her as a professor that will help prepare me as I head into the workforce as a new Social Worker,” Jessica said. Dr. Bryson goes to the high school most Wednesdays to plan events or workshops (open to any student) and to talk to students about college and future plans. “I work very closely with Mike Deaton (ISAT) and Helen Schurz [a counselor at Waynesboro High School].” Dr. Bryson explained. “We all work on this program together. We talk to students about how they are doing, what their challenges are, how we can overcome those challenges. We give them helpful hints.”
Recently, four high school students visited the University of Virginia, and eight students visited Virginia Tech; both were overnight trips. Dr. Bryson explained that many of these students will be first-generation college students and that they don’t know what to expect as far as college life goes. “[The high school students] are really doing great. You can tell because they are making good decisions like applying to Governor’s School and [Advanced Placement] classes.
In regards to receiving the All Together One Award on April 12, Dr. Bryson was appreciative. “It couldn’t be done without the support of my faculty. We have an amazing faculty in my department; helpful and full of support. The students in our department work with the kids and are dedicated. None of the programs are possible without them. It makes my job a lot easier. Nobody really rises on their own, everyone is supported by something or somebody.”