Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Aya Waller-Bey is a young professional committed to educational access and equity. Early on in her education, Aya was identified as a high-achieving student and went on to participate in YesforPrep, a program aimed at identifying academically talented 7th grade students from underrepresented backgrounds from the metro Detroit area and preparing them to successfully compete for entry into rigorous college preparatory high schools. Aya eventually went on to attend Renaissance High School in Detroit, where she was selected in the first cohort of Detroit Public Schools students to participate in the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) Summer Institute at Princeton University in 2011. Aya graduated from Renaissance High School Summa Cum Laude, earning over three hundred thousand dollars in scholarships and admissions offers from Georgetown University, Wesleyan University, Northwestern University, Boston University, Syracuse University and on-site offers to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
Aya graduated Cum Laude from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a concentration in Social Justice. She also minored in African American studies and studied abroad at the Universität of Trier in Germany where she reached advanced proficiency in German. As an active student leader, mentor and activist, Aya facilitated numerous initiatives aimed at promoting the narratives of underrepresented students. In 2013, she organized a nationally trending online campaign called #BBGU (Being Black at Georgetown University). Her campus contributions were highlighted in a Washington Post feature and she received the 2014 recipient of the Katherine Kraft Medal, an award given each year to the graduating student who best manifested a spirit of humility, cooperation and commitment as a woman or man for others in all phases of his or her college life.
After graduation, Aya remained at Georgetown working as an Admissions Officer and the Coordinator of African American Recruitment in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. In her role, Aya reviewed and made admissions decisions for over 1000 candidates in four states–Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. In addition, she organized and conducted fall high school visits and met with counselors and students of over 84 high schools in the Midwest. Aya represented Georgetown University at college fairs targeted towards first generation and low-income college bound students. She also coordinated admitted student weekends in March and April with the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access to invite accepted African American, Mexican American and Native American students to a free, overnight visit to campus.
In February 2015, Aya was awarded the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship to the University of Cambridge—a scholarship awarded to only 40 people in the US each year. Scholars are intellectual postgraduate students with a capacity for leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of others. Before commencing her Masters, Aya returned to the LEDA Summer Institute at Princeton University as a College Guidance Coordinator. In this role, she conducted one-on-one college guidance meetings with 50 Scholars on weekdays to support them in their individual college search. She also led and facilitated “Mock Admissions” College Guidance classed of 50 Scholars, and moderated and provided logistical support for college guidance panels with 4 small liberal arts colleges, and 3 women’s colleges.
In 2016, Aya graduated with Distinction from the University of Cambridge, earning her Masters of Philosophy in Education. Aya is committed to college access and increasing college admissions literacy and confidence. As a former admissions officer, she witnessed first-hand the disparity between high school students from low-income communities and students from more affluent schools and communities. As a beneficiary of college access and preparatory programs, Aya is passionate about connecting students and parents to resources and equipping them with meaningful information and skills to be successful in the college admissions process.