Randolph-Macon College alumnus William Bradford Alston II '01 majored in sociology because he enjoys learning about and working with people. Sociology, a multi-faceted major, was a great fit for Alston, who counts people and relationships as central to his life and career.
At R-MC, Alston took full advantage of all the college offers: he sang in the Ujima Gospel Choir and Concert Choir; he played defensive tackle for the football team; and he was an active member of the Black Cultural Society.
Environmental Studies/Geology Professor Michael Fenster played an important role in helping Alston thrive in college.
"He got to know me and we talked about my challenges—both academic and personal," says Alston. "I struggled academically and socially because of personal issues. Professor Fenster took an interest in me and made sure I was on track regarding which classes I needed to graduate." Fenster also helped Alston learn some important life lessons.
"He helped me think about my future, and plan for what I wanted to do after college," says Alston. "He took time out of his schedule to talk to me, and to assure me that I could succeed. I am grateful to him, and pleased to say we are still great friends today."
Fenster, the Stephen H. Watts Professor of Science, says, "Brad exemplifies in so many ways how students benefit from their Randolph-Macon experience. All he needed was a little window to see possibilities, and his mind, character, work ethic and big heart took it from there. Brad continues to inspire those around him with his life, words and actions—including me."
From Student to Teacher—to Student Again
In 2002 Alston became a special-education teacher at Highland Springs High School, part of the Henrico County Public Schools system, and in 2016 he earned the state award for Mentor of the Year.
The award lauded Alston's work as lead mentor coordinator at Highland Springs, where he mentored dozens of students.
"I was extremely honored and appreciative of the recognition," he says of winning the award. "I was not only surprised to win, but also to be nominated." The award was presented at the annual Virginia Mentoring Partnerships Ceremony, held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia on March 17, 2016. At the ceremony, he was described as an "exceptional education teacher, with additional responsibilities as an administrative aide, varsity football coach, and FeedMore site coordinator."
Alston, who was recently promoted to administrative intern at Highland Springs, and he is also pursuing a master's degree in educational leadership supervision at Regent University. Teaching while simultaneously being a student, he admits, is challenging.
"My wife is my backbone," says Alston. "She supports me and helps me to stay on top of everything," he says. His busy schedule is giving Alston a firsthand look at how crucial time management is for students. "I can use my personal experience as a testimony to show how determination and success go hand in hand," he says. His next career goal, he says, is a role as assistant principal.
Yellow Jackets = Friendships
Lifelong friendships and Yellow Jackets: the two are synonymous for Alston.
"The students I met and bonded with in college are the same men I spend my time chatting with these days," says Alston. "I like to think that I give everyone a chance, and I am more open- minded, two concepts I could not grasp at the age of 19. If it were not for my R-MC friends—my brothers—I am not sure what kind of man I would be today." Alston's advice to new Yellow Jackets is heartfelt.
"Keep an open mind. College is about finding out who you really are and staying true to yourself. The world is constantly trying to change and mold you into who it thinks you should be. Acknowledge this and politely say, 'No thank you, I know who I am.' To this day I still say, 'It's a great day to be a Yellow Jacket.'"