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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Cierra Stewart ’20 meets Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in 2022.

Learning to Make a Difference

Much of what shaped Cierra Stewart’s ’20 current career path was set into motion before she ever stepped foot onto the campus of the University of Dayton. Stewart came of age during the summer of protests over the deadly police shooting involving Michael Brown in 2014 and was influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement that followed.

“Watching injustice occur made me realize that I needed to do something to help solve these problems,” said Stewart.

Knowing she wanted to be part of the change she wanted to see in the world, Stewart got to work. While still in high school, Stewart began taking college courses through the UD Sinclair Academy, a partnership between Sinclair Community College and UD. By the time she transferred to UD, Stewart only needed two years of classes to complete her degree.

Stewart quickly discovered it wasn’t just her goals or being a transfer student that made her unique. Stewart, a native of Dayton, lived at home and commuted to her classes. She was also non-Catholic and nonwhite. It wasn’t long before she learned that even nontraditional students have a home in the Flyer community. She got involved with student government, the Asian American Association, and the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center.

“The college experience is what you make it,” said Stewart. “It might be hard, but you can do it. You can find your place here.”

When she graduated two years early with a degree in political science, Stewart leaned into the relationships she built during her DC Flyers summer internship with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office in Washington, D.C. She worked on Desiree Tims’ 2020 bid to represent Ohio’s 10th Congressional District before rejoining Sen. Brown’s office, where she is now a legislative correspondent, covering education and environmental and energy policy.

In February 2022, Stewart’s dedication paid off in a personal triumph — meeting then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Judge Jackson met with all 100 senators in advance of her Senate confirmation hearing. During her meeting with Senator Brown, Stewart took the opportunity to share a few words with the justice.

“She was so kind and down-to-earth. It was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to tell her how inspired I was by her and how much her nomination meant to me and to other Black girls,” said Stewart. “She grabbed both my hands and spoke to me, but I don’t remember what she said because I was too excited at that moment.”

How does she top a moment like that? Stewart plans to continue her current career path in politics before returning to law school to study civil rights and constitutional and public interest law. She wants a better understanding of the legal system so she can combine it with her political experience and create real change in the world. She might even run for political office one day.

“I look up to Black women trailblazers like Judge Jackson and Vice President Kamala Harris,” said Stewart. “Why can’t I make history too?”

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