Amaya Reynolds wearing a blue shirt standing in front of white columns

Class of 2023: Amaya Reynolds

Graduating with a B.S.Ed. in Youth and Social Innovation, Amaya Reynolds turned an interest in helping others into a passion for working with youth and a future career in social work.

Laura Hoxworth

Amaya Reynolds, originally from northern Virginia, credits her encouraging professors and one impactful hands-on learning experience with helping her find her place at UVA and her future career. This May, she is graduating with a B.S.Ed. in Youth and Social Innovation. 

What inspired you to want to work with youth? 

Although I entered UVA as an undecided major, I quickly knew I wanted to be in some sort of helping profession. I was doing some research one day, came across the Youth and Social Innovation (YSI) major and decided to take a risk and go for it. Shortly after my acceptance into the program and orientation into the Education School, I knew this field and working with youth was the right fit for me. I have loved the opportunity to learn and refine the skills needed to effectively empower, advocate for, and support youth to meet them where they’re at and ensure they are reaching their full potential. 

Why did you choose the UVA School of Education & Human Development for your program of study? 

Encouragement and support! Every single peer, professor, and staff member has been extremely encouraging and willing to help, support, and advance my educational experience. I also really enjoy the variety of classes available within the Education School, and the flexibility that is incorporated into the YSI curriculum specifically. We are definitely encouraged to explore our interests related to youth work, but also challenged to engage in coursework and concepts outside of our comfort zones to ensure we are more well-rounded students and future workers. 

What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time here? 

My experiential learning experience. My third year, I interned with the City of Charlottesville’s Community Attention Office, where we provided community-based services to local Charlottesville youth who were largely from marginalized backgrounds. Not only was I exposed to the vibrant local Charlottesville community independent of UVA, but I was also exposed to the possibilities of what youth work could look like for me. Although my educational experience hasn’t been linear, working in the Community Attention office, engaging and mentoring the youth I did, and learning about the community I was living in will be something I will always remember and aspire to do no matter where my career takes me. 

What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most? 

How big of an impact one individual can have. In the School of Education and Human Development and YSI, we learn about big topics like institutional racism, opportunity gaps, racial and social justice, and the larger contextual factors that affect kids’ and families’ lives. After gaining this knowledge, I think it’s very natural to feel discouraged or like you can’t possibly compete with the implications of these issues. Throughout my education, I’ve learned that we actually can make an impact, both as a group and as individual workers, and use that knowledge to make a widespread, sustainable change. 

If you can, name one person that has made a special impact during your studies and how? 

I have to name three: Melissa Levy, David Aaron-Roth, and Bethany Bell. I’ve had the pleasure of having Dr. Levy as a professor, academic advisor, and mentor, and she has been one of the most encouraging, supportive educators I’ve engaged with in my entire academic experience. Although I’ve only met DAR relatively recently, I’ve been given some of the best advice and been challenged in the best ways by him and his genuine concern and investment in students’ success. Finally, I owe Bethany so much! Not only has she been a fantastic professor, since recently moving to Charlottesville/UVA she has fully engaged with her students and is a consistently positive, supportive resource. 

What will you be doing next? 

I am very excited to continue my academic journey at Washington University in St. Louis, MO to obtain my Master of Social Work (MSW)! 

Class of 2023 Graduation Profiles

We invite you to get to know a few members of the UVA EHD Class of 2023 as we celebrate the accomplishments of the entire class.

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Laura Hoxworth