Alliance grows with authenticity, impact and Black joy at the forefront
While she doesn’t think of herself as a natural born leader, Sophie Summers displays the type of self-awareness, authenticity and values that only the best leaders possess. As a volleyball player, co-president of the Black Student-Athlete Alliance (BSAA) and a young woman navigating her intersecting identities, Sophie is actively finding herself and growing her community.
“I think there’s a straight line, for me, from knowing who I am and being confident to feeling like I’m supported and in a community. My dad saw that I was both passionate and had a lot to say from a very young age. He always encouraged me to do the things I do with excellence.”
That’s why Summers chose the University of Washington and soon after found herself co-leading the BSAA. “UW had everything I wanted. It was just a really special culture that doesn’t exist in the other places I looked at. From the coaching staff to our athletic admin to our academic advisers, everyone works in such a beautiful, family-style way to support their student-athletes. I felt like no matter what I chose to pursue with my major or in my life that I was going to be supported.”
Sophie joined the BSAA after the upswelling of social change in the summer of 2020. “I felt really called to action to be a part of the Black community and contribute in a way that was both authentic to me and felt like
I was doing something tangible.”
As co-President alongside fellow student-athlete Lexi Griggsby, Sophie has helped organize several successful events in the past year, but what she really looks forward to are the alliance meetings and occasional Pictionary games with her peers.
“It’s just time for us to spend together and to laugh and be joyous. That’s one of our main principles — the idea of cultivating Black joy, because there’s a lot of Black student-athlete struggle,” says Sophie. “We want to see people smile and we want to take some of the pressure off of Black student-athletes — to empower them and give them a place to feel safe.”
“BSAA gives our student-athletes and myself the confidence to know who you are, to use your resources, to persevere, to get better, to feel safe, to feel like you can go for it.”
When asked to reflect on the support she’s received, Sophie shares that “Thank you comes to mind, but it falls short of what donations and scholarships do for student-athletes … You’re helping people achieve their dreams and achieve lifelong success, setting them up to not just be great athletes but amazing people.”