Blazing the Trail
Baylor Welcomed its inaugural cohort of Trailblazer Scholars this fall with the selection of 25 students. Designed to recognize the importance of fostering diversity and mutual respect at Baylor, the Trailblazer Scholars program emerged as part of Baylor’s commitment to listen, learn and take actionable steps regarding racial healing and justice in America. The inaugural Gilbert-Walker cohort of Trailblazer Scholars is named after Baylor’s first Black graduates Rev. Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Mrs. Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67.
Connie Mendoza, (above) a first-generation student from Waco majoring in communication sciences and disorders, was selected as a Trailblazer Scholar for her senior year.
“Being a part of the first cohort of Trailblazers is exciting. I know we have an important task ahead of us, but I also realize that just because it is starting with us does not mean it will end with us. While we will indeed try our best to create a solid foundation for this program, I know this program will continue to grow and create an immense change for many years to come. I am excited to be a part of the beginning of this program, but I am even more excited to see where this program will end up,” Mendoza said.
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to serve the Baylor community in such an important way. I never imagined that as a college freshman I would be given such a big responsibility and, as the first of hopefully many, the opportunity to illuminate the path of change.”
Students in the Trailblazer Scholars Program participate in leadership and service opportunities through Baylor’s Department of Multicultural Affairs and through other groups and programs on the University’s campus. Scholarship funds are awarded annually and are renewable to students who maintain a 2.5 GPA and are actively committed to conversations and initiatives advancing racial conciliation on Baylor’s campus and throughout the nation.
“I found out about the Trailblazer Scholars program by researching opportunities to make my Baylor journey more affordable,” said Makayla Williams, a first-year student from Humble, Texas, studying professional writing and rhetoric. “The program stuck out to me because its fundamentals align with my goals and values. As a minority student, one of the hardest things to conquer is a sense of belonging. With the core values of the Trailblazer Scholars program, Baylor is aiming to redefine unity and what it means to belong.”
The University launched the program in July 2020 with an initial investment of $5 million in scholarship support. Since then, parents, alumni and friends have given an additional $2.2 million to support this important University priority.
Dalshawn Jones, a senior sociology major from Buras, Louisiana, anticipates putting his leadership skills to good use.
“My Baylor experience has been a journey. There have been many ups and downs; however, I have found major enjoyment and peace within the organizations and relationships that I have been a part of, “ he said. “For instance, joining Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has allowed me to grow as an individual and take on new leadership skills that I know I will take with me into the Trailblazer program and beyond Baylor once I graduate.”