Victor A. Kwansa is an attorney, educational advocate, poet, and commentator from Riverdale, Maryland. With the support of his parents and older brother, Victor was able to go from the public schools of Prince George’s County, Maryland to Yale University and Harvard Law School. Victor’s mother waited in line for 10 hours to ensure that his brother (and later himself) could go to a magnet elementary school instead of the neighborhood school that was literally across the street from their apartment. Given his strong elementary school foundation, he was better positioned to test into one of the best high schools in his county. Although Victor was anxious about taking advanced courses so early in high school, he ultimately decided to enroll in challenging classes in large part because of the encouragement of his parents and school staff members.
Although Victor learned a great deal from his high school teachers, he also received important lessons from his fellow students. During one of Victor’s classes there was one student who actually threatened to see the teacher after school one day and another student who seemed to be so behind in his assignments for other classes that he was completing numerous worksheets one afternoon with the help of one of his friends. One day in class, Victor was just sitting by himself and these same two students asked him what his grade point average was. Victor told them his GPA, and then they just said, “That’s good, man. Keep it up.” That incident stressed to Victor that the same students who the outside world may believe have no interest in school may actually deeply value academic success, but they may have never been encouraged to believe that they could do well in school themselves.
When Victor eventually applied to colleges, he was encouraged to apply to a variety of schools across the country. He gained admission to colleges such as Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and multiple Ivy League schools. Victor’s family was incredibly excited about his offers of admission. Victor visited several schools, but he ultimately felt that Yale University was the best place for him to pursue his dreams. Although he was sometimes one of the few black male students in a given class, Victor deeply appreciated the support of Yale’s black community. As a Yale student, Victor worked for and volunteered with different afterschool programs in New Haven, Connecticut. He also co-founded a poetry group which performed on campus and at local schools. In his senior year of college, Victor applied to law school and he gained admission to various schools such as the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Columbia Law School, and Harvard Law School.
As a Harvard Law student, Victor participated in Street Law workshops for juvenile offenders. During his law school summers, he also interned for education-related nonprofit organizations. At the Afterschool Alliance in Washington, D.C., Victor drafted blogs, helped prepare fact sheets about the recession’s impact on afterschool programs, and analyzed legislation that could potentially benefit the afterschool field. As a summer fellow for the “I Have A Dream” Foundation (IHDF) in New York, Victor spoke with youth about the importance of higher education, analyzed state policies on college savings accounts, and worked on memorandums of understanding between IHDF and other youth-oriented organizations. During law school, Victor also visited Ghana in West Africa and toured historic sites such as slave castles and a former slave camp.
Victor has contributed his views on social justice in televised, print, and online media. His essays have been featured in The Huffington Post, Blavity, Education Post, and a Yale booklet for incoming freshmen. His poetry has been featured in Essence magazine, CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art and Action, and Yale’s student publication, Sphere. In 2010, he was featured in The Root’s online gallery of up-and-coming artists and entrepreneurs. Victor has spoken and/or performed at events for various organizations such as Yale University, Harvard University, Clemson University, the University of Akron, the NAACP, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., K-12 schools, and community centers.