The Thomas Shaw Award for Service was originally conceived as a recognition for “someone whose deeds and actions reflect his or her pride in their alma mater and loyalty to the school.” This year, the Award’s recipient is not an individual, but rather, a group, who in just two years have made a uniquely transformative impact on the St. Andrew’s community.
The Black Alumni Collective
(BAC) Leadership Team, which includes Delonte Egwuatu ’12, Kiah Simms ’12, Jamee Williams ’12, Husam Shabazz ’15, and Gillian Sanford ’18, will receive The Shaw Award at the Alumni Awards Luncheon during Homecoming & Reunion on October 15
. The mission of the BAC, an alumni affinity group and organization, is to enrich the experience of Black students and alumni of St. Andrew’s through fellowship, advocacy, and mentorship.
“This award is the perfect award for the BAC because we love St. Andrew’s. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t love St. Andrew’s,” Williams said. “There were some experiences there that shaped who we are, and some were not so great and could be negative, but at the same time, when you love something, you want it to be better and want to improve it. I think the award speaks to that, and the School can see that we truly love the School and they are glad that we want it to be better.”
The BAC was formed in 2020 during the summer of racial reckoning in the United States. Since then, the BAC has created internships for BIPOC St. Andrew’s students and alumni, awarded scholarships to Black St. Andrew’s graduates, hosted community-building gatherings like the BAC-2-School Bash and the End of Year Ceremony, and organized two nationwide social justice student hackathons (HackBAC)
, all with the backing of more than $100,000 raised by the St. Andrew’s community.
Shabazz said that seeing how the work of the BAC, particularly HackBAC, has inspired students to advocate for themselves and their peers has been the greatest reward.
“I think the reflections we’ve gotten from students, how [HackBAC] has given them the courage to have hard conversations with their institutions, and how it’s encouraged them to explore different avenues of entrepreneurship, have been the biggest accomplishments for us,” Shabazz said.
The idea of creating an organization that would benefit Black St. Andrew’s students and alumni was first imagined in 2017 by Egwuatu and Shabazz, who each remembered what it was like to be one of the few Black boys in their graduating classes.
Each member of the BAC Leadership Team was motivated to be part of it because of their experiences at St. Andrew’s and their shared desire to support and encourage current Black students.
“I think it’s really important to find your niche and what you really believe in, and for me, it was helping students like me, specifically women of color, who are at St. Andrew’s,” Simms said. “[I wanted to] try to find a way in my niche of helping St. Andrew’s be more inclusive and letting those students know, ‘Hey, I was like you, and yes, it was hard, but the BAC, we are here for you.’”
“I’ve always loved St. Andrew’s. St. Andrew’s has had a special place in my heart. All of the teachers there, anyone who works there, even the lunch ladies or people who work on the grounds, they’ve always given their all to make sure students do well and live up to their potential,” Sanford said. “Being able to give back and see other people really thrive is something that has always been important to me.”
Looking ahead, the BAC will complete its strategic planning work
with aspirations to "drive transformational, institutional change by proactively fostering a school environment where Black students and alumni belong and thrive, inspiring persons of historically marginalized backgrounds at independent schools to effect change within their own communities, and promoting a society free of racism and injustice."
They also hope that they won’t be the only alumni who are doing this work, Egwuatu said.
“Part of our vision is to inspire other affinity groups, or persons of historically marginalized backgrounds, at our school or other independent schools, to take up this work,” Egwuatu said. “There’s an incredible opportunity and promise, and it goes back to our values of relationships and collaboration. We don’t do this in a silo by ourselves.”