Cameron Washington was unsure about starting college. He had to talk himself into attending that first scholarship dinner. Then Orientation. Then the Student Transition Program he signed up for the summer before freshman year.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to do any of this, but I jumped out of my comfort zone and gave it a try,” he said. “I’ve loved it ever since.”
Now a University of Mary Washington senior, he found camaraderie and a sense of connection at the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), where he became a student aide. From there, his résumé bloomed; he’s president of Brothers of a New Direction, secretary of Voices of Praise and a member of the NAACP UMW chapter. His most recent achievement – the 2022 Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership – has Washington ramping up efforts to increase equity and inclusion for incoming students just venturing out of their own comfort zones.
“Cameron is truly an ambassador for diversity on campus and an activist for positive social change,” said JFMC Director Marion Sanford. “He passionately and consistently works to enhance the experiences of student life at UMW, wherein all students feel welcome, celebrated, valued and heard.”
Growing up in Tappahannock and Richmond, he absorbed the spirit of service from his mother, who works to bring benefits to state employees, and from his late father, a funeral home director who attended to those in grief.
“I want to help and accommodate people,” said Washington, who plans to pursue a post-college path to become a mortician, himself, at the business his grandfather started. Along the way, he’ll use his communication and digital studies major to build a career in user interface design, a pursuit he hopes eventually to fold into funeral work.
At UMW, Washington has participated in Human Rights Film Series and MLK Day of Service events, drawing on lessons imparted by the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor James Farmer. “From reading Lay Bare the Heart to being on the 2019 Freedom Rides Tour, I’ve learned about him and the impact he made on UMW and on civil rights activism as a whole,” Washington said. “His legacy has really been transformative for me.”
Campus events like the Multicultural Fair, Colors of Africa and the Kwanzaa Celebration have also made a mark on Washington, who serves as a student co-coordinator for the Diversity Peer Educators/Farmer Fellows program.
“It’s like a full-circle moment,” he said of receiving the Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership, previously given to UMW peers he admires.
With it, he hopes to help bridge the gap between students and faculty, create opportunities for members of the Mary Washington community to learn about and appreciate one another’s differences, and champion UMW’s ASPIRE values.
“I encourage the class of 2026 to jump out of their comfort zone,” Washington said. “You may not know what you’ll find, but chances are, once you make the jump, it will be something beautiful.”
Cameron Washington has also received the Richard V. and Rosemary A. Hurley STEM Scholarship.