A native Nashvillian, Newton’s interest in the field of education and ending education inequity surfaced in his freshman year at Vanderbilt when he tutored a nine-year-old third grade student at McGavock Elementary with his daily reading assignments. Through this experience, Newton learned that student achievement is not dependent on the teachers alone; parents, students, and community partners must all work together to propel the student to their maximum potential. Newton continued to develop his interest in local students’ academic and personal achievement in his sophomore year when he became the youth organizing intern for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. In partnership with Latino, Kurdish, and Somalian high school and college students, Newton developed and facilitated youth-led groups that focused on multi-ethnic inclusion and youth empowerment. In addition, Newton developed the STUDY Foundation, an organization aimed to provide local minority students with the knowledge, resources, and motivation to pursue higher education.
On Vanderbilt’s campus, Newton is invested in Manna Project International, a service-oriented organization that connects Vanderbilt students with opportunities to serve and learn both locally and internationally. After participating in an alternative spring break trip to an orphanage in Honduras his freshman year, Newton became the Vice President of Local Initiatives, a position that allowed him to expand the number of Vanderbilt students participating in various projects throughout the Nashville community. Newton also traveled to Quito, Ecuador, in the summer of 2011. He taught English to park rangers at an environmental park so that they could better communicate with English – speaking tourists. Then, with the support of Manna Project International and his peers, Newton organized an alternative spring break trip to Camp Hope in Quito. Camp Hope is an organization that provides education, housing, spiritual discipline, and medical services to orphans with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as typically developing students. He and his teammates did repair work around the facilities and spent time with the students.
In addition, Newton has also developed an interest in postsecondary education attainment for students with intellectual and physical disabilities through Vanderbilt Next Steps, a program designed to provide students with disabilities a college-like experience and education. As a mentor in this program, Newton tutors, exercises, and eats lunch with students to incorporate them into the Vanderbilt community. With the help of his fellow mentors and Next Steps students, Newton initiated the ‘Next Steps Social Committee,’ which focuses on creating events such as holiday parties, group outings, and football tailgates for Next Steps students to spend time with the Vanderbilt community in a social setting.
Looking forward, Newton is excited to continue to collaborate and develop relationships with students and community partners in order to create education systems that encourage inclusion, excellence, and unity. Newton feels honored to be a part of the Ingram Scholarship Program community, and he looks forward to working with his peers and mentors as an Ingram Scholar.