Ke’Aja Jefferson, known by her peers and MLSoC faculty as KJ, is a Building Construction student with a focus in Virtual Design Construction. She is also the recipient of the Peter C. Snyder Memorial Scholarship. As a first-generation and financially independent college student, this scholarship came at a perfect time. The scholarship provided KJ with the funding needed to finish her fifth and final year at Virginia Tech. KJ was worried about funding her fifth year since her primary scholarship only covered four years. The scholarship covered not only tuition and fees, but also room and board. Additionally, the scholarship alleviated the stress associated with financial aid, allowing KJ to completely focus on finishing her degree.
KJ and her two younger brothers had a tough childhood. They were raised by her grandparents from the age of four. Throughout their adversity, KJ found a passion in learning and leaned on her love for school. School became her happy place. Despite the loss of her grandfather a year before high school graduation and her five-year-old cousin three months prior, KJ persevered, studied hard and was admitted to Virginia Tech in pursuit of a Civil Engineering degree. During her first two years at Virginia Tech, KJ experienced even more loss, pain, and eventually academic failures completely stripping her of her love for learning. Since she failed to meet the requirements of the preliminary years in General Engineering, KJ was removed from the program.
KJ transferred hopelessly into the School of Construction’s Building Construction Program and completed the required summer courses for transfer students. After two years in the program, KJ has reclaimed her love for learning and explored her newly discovered passions. She has had the honor of serving as a Building Construction Ambassador, member of the Associated School of Construction Concrete Solutions Competition Team, leader of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America Student Chapter and Competition Team, teaching assistant to three classes, member of the program’s Diversity Council, and dedicated volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
In the face of adversity, I found an opportunity for maturity, discipline, bullet proof perseverance and the road to my true calling. Instead of a statistic for failure, I have become a success story that can help other students who are worried what tomorrow will hold.
KJ is most excited about the endless opportunities and limitless growth provided in the industry. As an African-American woman in construction, she is both honored and humbled to help pave the way for other minority students that will follow. KJ is excited to work in an industry that she loves and secure a better future for her family.
In the Summer of 2019, during an internship with Kjellstrom and Lee Construction, KJ was tasked to prepare a construction plan for replacing the existing radiators with four-pipe fan coil units. As she researched fan coil units and developed a plan, she became intrigued by mechanical systems. The following semester, KJ completed Building Systems with Professor Georg Reichard and Life Cycle BIM for FM, taught by Dr. Walid Thabet, solidifying her interest in mechanical, electrical and plumping (MEP) systems. This newfound passion led KJ to add our Sustainability track to her degree.
Looking ahead, KJ plans to work as a Project Engineer with a specialty contractor and most likely seek further education in mechanical engineering and project management. She loves studying and having the ability to convey complex topics in a manner that others, without technical knowledge, can understand. KJ hopes to get involved with the company's internship and diversity programs. Further, after a lengthy career in the industry, she has considered returning to higher education to teach.
Scholarships have the ability to help a student overcome adversity, focus on their education, discover new passions and prepare them to enter the professional world fully equipt. Financial help provides a way for students to attend Virginia Tech and explore the endless opportunities available. Helping and serving our students is a top priority for MLSoC.