Amadi Slaughter ’08
“I’ve always felt that education was the tool by which we could level the playing field, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity, or race.”
Amadi Slaughter’s educational mission is all about opening school doors for students—and ensuring that once they get inside, they thrive. Slaughter is the college advisor for the Wight Foundation, a Newark, New Jersey, organization that helps talented but underserved local students prepare for, apply to, and succeed at boarding schools and colleges. As a former Wight scholar herself—the first from the foundation to attend Williston—she is particularly aware of the group’s potential to change a young person’s life.
“I’ve always felt that education was the tool by which we could level the playing field, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity, or race,” she says. “During my time at Williston, it was very apparent to me that I was privileged to have access to that type of education, unlike some of my peers from back home.”
But her experience at Williston also led her to appreciate the subtleties of academic advising. Slaughter recalls how, as a Williston student, she was encouraged to apply to historically black colleges, an option she resisted for personal and financial reasons (historically black colleges, she notes, are often not as generous with assistance). “I felt like I was being pigeon-holed,” she says. “Looking back now, I know [my advisor] was probably thinking about the experience I was navigating at Williston, and how I probably would have benefitted from being part of a majority as an undergrad, but that wasn’t what I necessarily wanted.”
The experience had an unexpected result, encouraging Slaughter to explore a career in educational advising herself. She enrolled at the University of Richmond, earning a B.A. in sociology (with a concentration in power, diversity, and inequality) and a minor in rhetoric and communication, “academic paths that set me up well for what I ultimately pursued.”
After working in operations and advising for Newark’s North Star Academy, part of the Uncommon Schools charter management organization, she returned to the University of Richmond as assistant director for multicultural recruitment in 2016. Looking to come back to the Newark area to be closer to her family, she joined the Wight Foundation in May 2018. The foundation—founded in 1986 by New Jersey businessman Russell B. Wight Jr.—now has more than 100 scholars at East Coast boarding schools.
In her current role, Slaughter works closely with boarding school counselors, supports students and families in the college application process, and continues to offer counseling through a student’s college years. “We want to make sure that when students are on these college campuses, they are thriving and not merely surviving,” she says. “A lot of our students are so high performing and competitive, they simply don’t prioritize their mental and emotional health.”
That awareness of the importance of emotional balance comes from Slaughter’s own experience. “At Williston I felt very supported and I had a very strong friend group,” she explains. “Looking back now, I can identify when I was having a depressive spell, when I really wasn’t taking care of myself, physically, emotionally, or mentally. I didn’t have the soft skills to cope with those things.”
Those lessons inform Slaughter’s approach to her work today. “I felt really empowered at Williston, having had experiences such as student diversity leadership conferences,” she says. “I want to make sure that as our students are navigating these boarding school landscapes, they know they deserve to be there as much as anyone else. I want to make sure they feel empowered in who they are and their abilities, and are able to ask for what they want, and not feel that because they received a financial aid package, they should be happy merely to be there.”
Not just surviving, in other words, but thriving.