Naya White (SEBS’26) was born and raised in New Jersey. She has a lot of connections to Rutgers and a limitless passion for her family, science, the human mind…and dance! Her father, her uncle and a family friend are all Rutgers alumni, but Naya explains that she was never influenced by those connections and chose Rutgers for the ‘esteemed education it provides.’ It’s also close to home, which is important for Naya, who describes her family as very vibrant and full of fun and support.
Naya chose Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) because of her love of science. But this first-year student, has many interests. She sat down with the SEBS Office of Communications and Marketing for a chat about life and her passions.
So you are a Jersey Girl!
Yes, I grew up in central New Jersey in a small town called Dayton, South Brunswick. Every time I mention Dayton everyone thinks I’m from Ohio but nope, born and raised in NJ. Very suburban area, but close enough to fun things—mall, movie theater, bowling alley, etc.—although it does take two hours to get to the beach.
You have several connections to Rutgers, what led you to choose SEBS?
My dad went to Rutgers. And I know most people will think “oh trying to continue the legacy” or “like father like daughter”. But that’s not the case. I was never influenced by my father to come here. I chose Rutgers for multiple reasons. Some for anxiety reasons, but mostly because of Rutgers’ reputation. I wanted to experience it for myself as well as being only 18 minutes away from home!
I love science, which is why I chose SEBS: the known, the unknown, and the technological advancements that are helping us discover and learn. But, I am also very interested in psychology. I’ve always been obsessed with how the mind and brain work. But it’s only my freshman year, I still have a lot of time to decide.
What outside activities were you involved in during high school?
I was part of a photography club that I wish I was still in, but I’m not in high school anymore. Outside of school, though—during high school and now—I am a part of a leadership/mentorship conference called The Becoming. The founder of The Becoming is a past mentor of mine and she gave me the opportunity to better myself and connect with other girls of color my age. Now that I’m older, I’m part of the planning committee where previous assistants get to plan the entire conference. It’s a lot of work, yet super rewarding. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 we haven’t been able to put it together, but hopefully in the future we will continue the great work! The conference is usually held every year to inspire and teach young girls of all races (but mainly girls of color/BI-POC) how to navigate this crazy world. We have speakers, workshops, group activities and information that will last them a lifetime.
What would you like us to know about your background/family story?
My personal background story could be a novel. So to keep things short, my family is very vibrant and full of fun and support. My mother was adopted and grew up not knowing her biological family at all. She knew of her mother but never met her. Growing up, I really only had my dad’s side of the family once all of my mother’s adoptive family unfortunately passed on. The only “family” we had on our mother’s side were close friends of hers.
But, about six or seven years ago my mom finally took a DNA test and we found so many relatives! It’s been crazy getting to know them and going on trips to visit. My mom has two brothers and a sister, and I finally have more than one cousin my age since growing up. I was the youngest and the age gap made it hard to “fit in”.
These past years have been the most fulfilling years of my life because I always felt like something was missing. I finally feel like my family is complete. Plus, having a family member besides my dad who loves music and art just as much as I do is the best feeling. I am big on healthy family relationships. They are the foundation every child needs to grow up and be awesome! An open-minded and accepting family is what everyone needs. I hope one day I can be that for someone else. Related or not.
What are you passionate about?
My main passion, which I never get tired of talking about, is dance. I have been trained in classical ballet since age three. I eat, sleep, breathe, blink and dream dance. It’s my soul. It’s an indescribable feeling of freedom, strength, balance, heartache, and absolute peace of mind. Unfortunately, I am currently in physical therapy recovering from corrective surgery on both my feet/ankles so I haven’t danced since dec 2021. But I am looking forward to the future and trying to get back in the studio as soon as possible!!