The first day of college for Steinhardt senior Alexis Toney was a lonely one.
The Tennessee native said she was one of the few black students on campus and was in search for other minority students. Toney, who comes from a large
family, said she wanted to have a family at NYU, too.
She was introduced to the Academic Achievement Program, an organization that supports students of color in achieving their academic and leadership potential, by its director Julia Avina. At the time Toney joined, the group was comprised of 12 students.
Today, she serves as a university liaison for AAP, which has grown to have a consistent membership of 50 to 60 students and holds weekly rap sessions and game days. The program is one of the many ways in which Toney tries to foster community for minorities at the university.
With her energetic and bright personality, Toney has set an example by devoting a significant amount of time every day to support various minority clubs on campus. Toney believes her family at NYU is her priority, and her love for her fellow family members inspires her to continue working to unite and strengthen the presence of minorities on campus.
A founding member of the Black Students Union during her sophomore year, Toney has served as community outreach chair. Currently, she leads the group as the president and has spearheaded events like Keepin’ It 100 and Homecoming Week.
One of Toney’s priorities has been helping incoming freshman transition smoothly into NYU. Four years ago, Toney was unable to find a black community at the university, but now, she has helped create a growing and lively family for incoming students to join.
She also took part in creating the Black Students Guide, which contains helpful tips and advice for new students. And through BSU’s Inspired showcase at Scholars Weekend and the NYU Black Class of 2016 Facebook page, Toney said she wants the newly admitted students to know that there is a strong presence of black community at the university.
“We make ourselves visible so that if they do come here they know we’re here,” Alexis said.
Two summers ago, Toney and a friend got the idea to start a Black Solidarity Conference to provide an opportunity for black students to discuss and interact with each other. Last year, the BSU held the first Black Solidarity Conference at NYU, with a focus on identity.
“There’s this African proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ There’s strength in numbers,” Toney said. “The more people we have and the more voices we have, the stronger we’ll be as a union.”
In her efforts to create an even larger presence this year, Toney launched the Black and Brown Coalition — an umbrella organization for African-American and Latino-based organizations on campus. Toney said the aim of the coalition is to create unity among students of color by providing opportunities for various clubs to support and collaborate on planning events.
Toney’s enthusiasm and passion for everything she does has allowed her to enjoy her time at NYU. She is currently planning to hold a benefit concert in the spring for Hurricane Sandy, where she hopes to have her favorite rapper 2 Chainz perform.
“NYU has been the most amazing experience for me because I’ve done everything I wanted to do,” Toney said. “I got in here and saw that there wasn’t a black community, and I helped create that community and I helped build things to foster and bring more students in.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 13 print edition. Mary Jane Dumankaya is a deputy sports editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.