“FSU is a place that encourages its students to do what they may have once thought was impossible and I encourage every student of color to take advantage of that.”
- Favorite Sport: Played basketball for 10 years
- Travel Abroad: Has been to Greece and Spain
- Extracurricular: Won the title of Miss 1968 in the 2022 Black Student Union Pageant
- Musical Instrument: Plays the ukulele
- Family: Is the eldest of three sisters
With a devotion to student leadership, criminology major Kaela Braxton challenges fellow students to pursue their passions, explore their professional interests and succeed in class and beyond.
She does so from a place of experience: She’s a senior who serves as president of the Black Law Students Association and vice-president of the Society of Black Female Future Attorneys and who has received a grant to do important research on ancestry and identity.
“FSU encourages students to do what they may have once thought was impossible,” she said, “and I encourage every student of color to take advantage of that.”
In 2020/21, Braxton served as the equity and inclusion representative for FSU’s Inter-Residence Hall Council, where she spearheaded initiatives to ensure social justice within residence halls. In recognition of her performance, Braxton received the Mary B. Coburn Leadership Through Advocacy Award.
Braxton received an IDEA grant to investigate the long-term effects on African Americans’ self-worth and sense of identity from a lack of knowledge about their ancestry. She hopes her research sparks meaningful discussion and inspires students to learn more about their family history.
Braxton also assisted Marin Wenger, an associate professor in the College of Criminology, in research regarding anti-Asian hate crime victimization during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she hopes to pursue a career in criminal justice reform.
“FSU has given me the platform to make campus more inclusive and equitable for students of color,” Braxton said. “I have received so many opportunities from FSU that have given me a head start in life, something that I have never really had before. It has led me to occupy spaces that historically do not usually see many people of color and, more specifically, Black people.”
How has your major helped solidify your passion for service?
Majoring in criminology has given me the base knowledge to further pursue a career in criminal justice reform. Because of the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired while majoring in Tallahassee, I’ve had the opportunity to work in the criminal justice field and, more specifically, in the juvenile justice system, which has inspired me to continue working with children through rehabilitative programs.
In what ways has your service involvement within the FSU and Tallahassee community influenced the kind of mark you hope to make in your intended field?
My service involvement within the FSU and Tallahassee communities showed me that anyone and everyone can do amazing things. I want to pursue a career in juvenile justice, a field that deals with children who have been told time and time again that they are not good enough. My experience while working in the juvenile justice field taught me that the vast majority of the kids that do get in trouble with the law are not inherently bad kids; they are kids who have spent their lives in unstable households and not given the care and resources needed to truly flourish in this world. This society was not designed to uplift them, but, through my efforts, I hope to be able to uplift children in my intended field. I hope to inspire second chances and empathy.
What did receiving the Mary B. Coburn Leadership Through Advocacy Award mean to you?
This award solidified my desire to advocate for others by striving for diversity and equity in any position I find myself in. My first year at FSU, I was elected to be an Inter-Residence Hall Council member where I served as the equity and inclusion representative for Broward, Landis and Gilchrist halls. I was tasked with building up that position from scratch and creating a blueprint for future representatives. Throughout the year, I worked on several initiatives to promote equity and inclusion in the FSU residence halls. I was in charge of creating cultural events and traditions that provided students with guidelines on how to be inclusive and accepting of others.
How has FSU allowed you to grow as a leader in the causes you represent and aided you in your efforts to make campus more inclusive and equitable for students of color?
FSU has given me the platform to advocate for causes that I am passionate about. Through my leadership roles at FSU, I learned how to organize groups of people and assign them roles in order for us to run the most effective as a team. My leadership roles are constantly preparing me for how to be a leader in my future career. With my role in the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), I had the opportunity to provide networking opportunities to students of color. Last year, I hosted a Networking Mixer with BLSA where several judges, lawyers and legal professionals came to network with our members and other students on campus. Seeing my fellow BLSA members network with established individuals in the Tallahassee community brought me so much joy, as so many people I know have never had opportunities to get a little head start on their careers.
How did you develop your passion for service involvement? And in what ways are you involved?
I’ve always had a passion for service. In high school I served as president of several service organizations while also spending my weekends serving as a youth group leader at the church I attended. While I no longer consider myself religious, the lessons I learned while serving in the church and serving in my community have extended to college and pushed me to pursue a career that is dedicated to serving others. My passion for justice and the law inspired me to become a program assistant for Leon County Teen Court. I have always had a love for the field of law and knew from a young age that I wanted to become an attorney. I volunteered in Teen Court back in Orlando during high school, so when I saw that they were hiring in Tallahassee, I knew I had to apply. Prior to working at Teen Court, I wanted to become a civil rights attorney, but the work I accomplished in the program inspired me to pursue a career in juvenile justice, where I feel my efforts will be the most beneficial.
As the newly elected president of the Black Law Students Association and vice president of the Society of Black Female Future Attorneys, what impact do you hope to have on the culture and community at FSU?
I hope that I can make a long-lasting impact on the culture and community at FSU through my work in these organizations. My goal this year is to build these organizations to a point where they are an established force on campus. FSU is a predominantly white institution, and there are times where Black students have felt like they had nowhere they belonged on campus. I want my work through these organizations to show the FSU community that Black students and students of color do have a place here.