College award winners are inspired to make a difference
Each spring, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities and its departments recognize dozens of students in an Honors and Awards ceremony.
Although that public event could not take place this year, CAAH continues to celebrate these outstanding students. A complete list of the 2020 Honors and Awards winners appears on the College website.
Below are the four students who earned CAAH’s highest honors, the College Awards. These students have separate goals, but they share a commitment to excellence and a passion for idealism. They all want to work toward a better world.
Gabe Jenkins, Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award
Leadership is a core value for Gabe Jenkins, ’21, a landscape architecture major.
In high school, Jenkins was a team captain in basketball, football and soccer.
At Clemson, he has worked with TigerQuest, helping new students adjust to university life and pursue academic success at Clemson.
And as treasurer of the Clemson chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, he has helped coordinate events and conferences.
“I hope to increase the awareness of, and enrollment in, landscape architecture, particularly among African American and Hispanic students,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins is being recognized for his efforts with a prestigious Blue Key Award, which honors one student in each academic college at Clemson and is funded through the annual Tigerama event.
Jenkins’ has made bold choices. Last summer, he jumped at the opportunity to intern with Mass Design Group in Kigali, Rwanda, where he mentored local students and helped design habitats for gorillas with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
“It was an adventure, a life-changing experience,” Jenkins said. “I had never been out of the United States, and I was helping people on the other side of the world.”
Jenkins had only $500 in his pocket and abundant jitters when he boarded the 21-hour flight to Rwanda, but he embraced the challenge.
“It actually showed me how strong I can be, how resilient, to go out there and experience life to the fullest,” Jenkins said. “It gave me the confidence, in terms of taking risks, that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.”
After graduation, Jenkins would like to lead his own landscape architecture firm “to make the world a better place through building sustainable communities.”
“I have a big heart for giving back and helping the less fortunate to live a purposeful life,” Jenkins said.
That desire was nurtured by his experiences as a teenager. Jenkins grew up in a single-parent family with three siblings, and he’s the first in his family to attend college.
“Despite having little, my siblings and I were taught to be generous, compassionate and service-minded,” he said.
At age 16, Jenkins began working with his grandmother at a local soup kitchen.
“That was pretty eye-opening,” Jenkins said. “We used to serve 400 to 500 homeless people in downtown Orlando. That inspired me to exercise leadership through serving.”
In high school, Jenkins also served as a team captain in several sports.
Outside of the University, Jenkins is a leader at his church, working with youth and helping to facilitate worship services.
“I’m inspired by my faith,” Jenkins said. “God has given me the strength and conviction to go after things fervently and have passion behind everything.”
Jenkins is not one to let obstacles get in his way. He didn’t get into Clemson when he first applied. He kept trying, though, and was successful on his third attempt.
“Clemson has shown me what family feels like outside of my immediate family,” Jenkins said. “It helps me to be caring about people who are different from me. Everyone supports everyone else here. You can go anywhere and say you’re a Clemson Tiger and you’re suddenly part of a family.”
Brittany Lacy, Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit
Brittany Lacy felt drawn to housing construction early in her life.
“As a toddler, my grandmother would take me to work sites for houses that she was building,” she said. “I enjoyed playing in the dirt with the scrap wood.”
Lacy, a 2020 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in construction science and management, received the Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit, which recognizes academic accomplishments and contributions to the Clemson University community.
From the moment she arrived at Clemson, Lacy has been actively involved with the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the charitable organization that uses volunteer labor to build homes for low-income families. For the past two years, she has served as construction coordinator for the chapter, identifying work sites and supervising as many as 30 volunteer builders.
In a normal spring semester, Lacy oversees a building project every weekend.
“I really love being on work sites and working with volunteers,” Lacy said. “Seeing a volunteer who may have never lifted a hammer at the end of week saying ‘Oh, my gosh, I put all these nails in, I built a wall’ – that’s the most rewarding part.”
Lacy is also an intern at the Pickens County Habitat affiliate, working as a liaison between the construction manager and volunteers. Meanwhile, she serves as secretary of the Clemson University Construction Women organization, helping to plan events such as site tours and dinners with industry professionals.
In addition to everything else, Lacy minored in non-profit leadership while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point ratio.
“There’s definitely been a lot of late-night and weekend work over the past few semesters,” Lacy said.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Lacy graduated from Lexington High School.
“Throughout my childhood, I always had my hands meddling in something, disassembling computers and building Lego cars,” she said.
Lacy sees in those early activities her own burgeoning interest in construction.
“I love the puzzles behind building,” she said.
But it was Lacy’s mission work during high school summer breaks that really inspired her to think of nonprofit construction as her life’s work.
“I worked in Hampton, South Carolina as a part of Salkehatchie Summer Camp, helping repair houses for those in need,” she said. ‘We would work a week each summer in the blazing South Carolina heat.”
Last summer, Lacy worked with Next Step Ministries in South Dakota as a construction site supervisor at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, land of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and one of the largest and poorest reservations in the nation.
“Living and working on the reservation has shown me the true impact construction can have on a life,” she said.
After graduation, Lacy hopes to work in construction with a nonprofit or missionary organization, much like Habitat.
“There’s a lot of need for affordable housing everywhere,” she said. “Ultimately, I think it’s really important to go into developing countries. I’ve been very blessed to receive a good education here at Clemson. This is my chance to give back to people though construction. The big motivators are using my skills to give back, and the friendships I get to make.”
Thomas Marshall III, Cameron Chase Huntley ’11 Diversity and Inclusion Award
Thomas Marshall’s zeal for mentoring new and prospective minority students at Clemson was inspired by his own experience as a first-year student.
“I grew up in the black community and went to a predominately black high school, so when I came to Clemson it was a complete culture shock,” he said. “I walked into my philosophy class and I was the only black kid in the room.”
Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Marshall has helped smooth the path for other students as an ambassador for orientation, CAAH, Tiger Alliance and the Men of Color National Summit.
Marshall, ’20, is being recognized with the Cameron Chase Huntley Award, which honors a student whose service has benefited underserved populations and bridged cultural differences.
The Clemson experience has been a whirlwind of activity for the English major.
Among his favorite endeavors was mentoring minority high school students throughout the Upstate as a Tiger Alliance ambassador.
“It was not necessarily about bringing them to Clemson, but it was about helping them develop a plan, whether it was learning a trade, going to vocational school or getting a job right out of high school,” Marshall said.
He also guided high school students at the Men of Color National Summit, the University’s annual event aimed at helping close the opportunity gap for African American and Hispanic students.
“It can be super overwhelming, being a high school student at this big national summit,” Marshall said. “But then students see older black males who are in engineering, business, education. Having their faces light up to see people who look like them in these positions is huge. Seeing them light up and seeing students who I mentored eventually make it to college – that was my favorite thing.”
Marshall also served as a resident assistant, worked in the Clemson Office of Student Transitions and Family Programs, and completed internships with University Relations, the Pearce Center for Professional Communication, and the football team.
As a senator in the Clemson Undergraduate Student Government, Marshall co-authored legislation that requires diversity training for new student senators. He also advocated for an inclusion and equity committee within the Senate.
Marshall has been accepted to the University of Houston’s master’s program in education and was a semi-finalist for a prestigious Fulbright scholarship in Malaysia.
Eventually, Marshall would like to go to law school or pursue a Ph.D. in African American studies.
“There’s so much I want to do,” he said. “I think social justice, diversity and inclusion and equity will always be a part of my career.”
In 2019, Marshall served as a Congressional Black Caucus legislative intern for U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Florida, working on policy analysis and assisting constituents.
“It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “I spent the summer with some of the most brilliantly talented black students from across the country.”
Among his other accomplishments, Marshall wrote an essay in a forthcoming book edited by Rhondda Robinson Thomas, the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson. The essay concerns Marshall’s experiences as a black student at Clemson.
He said he owes a lot to his alma mater.
“I came in as a shy student, and Clemson completely changed my life,” Marshall said. “Clemson gave me confidence and made me more self-aware. It also really invigorated my passion for advocacy and social justice.”
Courtney Grayson, Dre Martin Service Award
Lately, the world has been Courtney Grayson’s textbook.
The language and international health major has set her sights on working in epidemiology.
“Looking at the news about COVID-19 is like looking at my field of study,” Grayson said.
Grayson, ’20, is the recipient of the Chardrevius “Dre” Martin Service Award, which is presented to a student who is highly committed to service in the surrounding community, demonstrates a passion for helping others and has a strong academic record.
This honor is the only one of the College Awards selected by a student’s peers, a panel of CAAH Ambassadors, rather than the faculty and staff on the Honors and Awards committee.
“It’s a huge honor to be chosen since so many students are active in service,” she said.
Grayson’s own considerable volunteer activities have included a two-year stint as a Spanish interpreter at the Clemson Free Clinic.
“It was great to volunteer there and help out the local community,” she said.
Throughout her four years at Clemson, Grayson has volunteered as a tutor for America Reads, helping elementary school students with reading and writing.
Grayson also is interested in social justice issues and has been involved on campus with SAGA, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance.
“I do believe social justice overlaps with the health field, particularly in regard to quality and access issues,” she said.
In addition, Grayson, who completed a minor in animal and veterinary sciences, has worked as a veterinary assistant at Tiger Town Animal Clinic. The job has involved everything from administering vaccines to doing blood work and cleaning cages.
Finally, she’s a member of Clemson’s fencing team, an official club sport at the University. All the while, she has maintained a 3.7 grade-point ratio.
Born in Mississippi, Grayson grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
“In high school, I took courses in Spanish and health,” she said. “Clemson’s language and international health program allowed me to combine my two major interests into one.
“I’ve always known I wanted to do something in the heath field,” she added. “It wasn’t until a year or two ago that I focused on epidemiology.”
In her nomination letter, Dr. Arelis Moore de Peralta described Grayson, her student from two classes, in this way: “She represents the true Clemson spirit by being compassionate, humble and dedicated to the most vulnerable in our community.”
The University’s unique language and international health program provides an academic background that will open up a wealth of opportunities, Grayson said.
“It’s useful in the United States because of the large Hispanic population here, but it also will offer possibilities with an international organization, such as the World Health Organization,” Grayson said.
After graduation, Grayson plans to spend a gap year working in public health before entering a graduate program focusing on epidemiology.
“Clemson gave me a firm foundation to jump off into wherever I’m going next,” Grayson said. “I really learned a lot in all of my classes, gained a greater appreciation for my field and was able to establish great relationships with faculty and peers. They really introduced me to the field of public health, and all the opportunities in it. I’m extremely grateful to Clemson.”