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Seton Hall University

Naima Ricks Inspires Next Generation

Naima RicksEducational advocacy, community leadership and public service are the pillars that characterize the legacy that Naima K. Ricks, M.A.E. ’13/Ph.D. ’22, is building with the work that she is doing today.

Ricks’ introduction to leadership began during her time at William Paterson University as an undergraduate student where she served as the Student Government Association president. "I had the opportunity to really support the students at the school, and I said 'wow! this is something I want to do for the rest of my life'," she said. That influential role inspired Ricks to attend Seton Hall and pursue her degree in the College Student Personnel Affairs program where she was able to focus on student development, student growth, and understanding students from a holistic perspective.

In 2013, Ricks hit the ground running, becoming the youngest elected official in her hometown of Roselle, NJ while serving as the vice president of the Roselle Board of Education. After working in higher education for a few years, Ricks decided to come back to Seton Hall to pursue a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership, Management, and Policy, and cited faculty like Rong Chen, Ph.D., and Katie Smith, Ph.D., as instrumental in her success. "What I love most about Seton Hall is the world-class education. I am so grateful to have had such supportive faculty," she said. "What speaks to their work is that they were dedicated and committed to us." Reflecting on her time in the classroom, Ricks noted that there are still lessons and policies she’s learned about that she still uses every single day.

Echoing the sentiment shared by Nelson Mandela who expressed that education is a powerful weapon, Ricks said, "I think knowledge is power, and it’s so important for us to continue to educate ourselves." Even with her business, Empowered by Naima, LLC, Ricks strives to empower using simple tools. Rooted in this belief, she partnered with her mother to author a children’s book titled The Empowerment ABC’s to uplift young readers and inspire critical thinking through illustration in a simple and fun way.

Ricks has always had a passion for empowering young people, and she gets to live out this passion daily in her current role as the executive director of After-School All-Stars for their New Jersey chapter. The organization serves more than 2,000 students from 19 schools in Newark and Paterson, providing after school programming to keep children safe and help them succeed in school and life. Specifically, Ricks oversees all operations including hiring, fundraising and professional development of staff.

Ricks credits her parents as her two greatest sources of inspiration throughout her career. She says, "The two of them together just really supported me and made sure I was prepared to go out into the world to support other people," she said. The support that Ricks’ parents granted her is perfected in how she strives to nurture the potential of others, especially other women.

Naima RicksAs Women’s History Month kicks off on March 1st, Ricks’ journey is a testament to the spirit of the month, which emphasizes empowerment, challenging barriers and advancing progress toward more opportunity. "I always care about how people feel and how I can maybe make an impact or change someone’s life by some simple and kind words. I always want to be a role model," she said.

Ricks continued explaining, "One way I do that is by working with Girl Scouts – it is an organization that builds on character, courage and confidence. I definitely make sure I instill that in a lot of the girls I work with and in the work that I do now as After-School All Starts just started its first Girl Scout pilot troop; I am able to bridge a lot of what I do and bring everything all together."

When asked how she sees her efforts contributing to the ongoing narrative for empowerment and progress, especially for women in leadership, Ricks said, "I see my contributions today as being an anchor for other women to grow... to succeed. I want nothing but to see everybody succeed. I want to see us women stick together."

Whether through the corridors of academia or the halls of public service, Ricks’ story reflects a profound commitment to fostering positive change. Her accolades and achievements speak volumes about her impact in the community and help set a precedent for the difference one can make backed by nothing more than an unwavering mindset to help and love others.

Naima Ricks has been listed on InsiderNJ's African American Power List of most prestigious political players since 2016-2024. She has received the "Role Model of the Year Award" from the Roselle Branch NAACP. She is the proud founder of Empowered by Naima, LLC, and in 2023 was named one of Women We Admire’s 2023 Top Women Leaders of New Jersey.

Categories: Alumni

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