James Bennett ’21

James Bennett ’21: ‘We can be part of the change or we can sit idly by.’

When James Bennett ’21 was growing up, he thought he didn’t want to follow in the professional footsteps of his parents—both of whom are teachers. But by the time he was a senior in high school, he discovered he had a passion for helping others learn.

So when he arrived at Longwood, he became active in the Call Me MISTER program, which aims to increase the number of male teachers in Virginia. Bennett is pursuing a degree in liberal studies with concentrations in social science and English. He is planning a career as an educator—either in a K-12 classroom, just like his parents, or at the college level.

“It’s funny how life sometimes works out,” he said, as he laughs and acknowledges the irony.

“They raised me to leave a positive impact on the community. I know that whatever I do I will carry myself in a way that brings them honor.”

Bennett is the recipient of the 2019 Moton Legacy Scholarship, which covers full tuition for a year and is one of the highest honors bestowed by the university. It is a fitting recognition for someone who has dedicated his time at Longwood to helping others learn and who serves as a role model for many of his peers on campus.

“Mr. Bennett is a worthy candidate for this scholarship because he has demonstrated that he will take the motto and mentality of citizen leadership far beyond the campus of Longwood …, seeking to help others as he develops himself,” Dr. Maurice Carter, director of Longwood’s Call Me MISTER program, wrote in his nomination of Bennett.

Bennett holds numerous leadership roles on campus and is active in several student organizations. He is president of the Longwood chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and co-director of the B.A.S.I.C. Gospel Choir, where he also plays the piano. He also is one of the head student supervisors in the dining hall—the highest position a student worker can attain there.

The Moton Legacy Scholarship is awarded annually to a student with great promise for a life of citizen leadership, advancing in a contemporary context the ideals espoused by those who fought for equal opportunity in Farmville and Prince Edward during the civil rights era.

Bennett has visited the Moton Museum often during his years at Longwood and said the scholarship serves as a further reminder that Barbara Johns and the Moton strikers were agents of change—just as he aspires to be as a teacher.

“All of us today can have that choice, just like Barbara Johns did, to be part of the positive change,” Bennett said. “We can be part of the change or we can sit idly by. I think it should inspire us all to make the choice that benefits society.”

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