Reed remembers a day sometime after this, sitting on the Lawn, and realizing he didn’t really want to be a doctor. He wanted to help people, yes. He wanted to help people at a hard part of their lives and bring them joy.
“I could bring happiness and joy to people without being a doctor – just through paying attention to them, listening to them, being there for them,” he said.
He eventually switched his focus to cognitive science (with a concentration in linguistics) as one major. Staying on the pre-med track, he met most of the requirements by the second semester of his second year.
Another thing he felt passionate about was poetry writing, so he applied to and also majored in the English department’s Area Program in Poetry Writing. He’s had almost every Creative Writing Program poet as a teacher.
“All of them have been monumental to my growth as a poet,” he said.
Lisa Russ Spaar, who founded the poetry writing program and also directs the master’s-level Creative Writing Program, said Reed is “a gifted poet in possession of a great and generous spirit. He is beloved by his cohort of talented poets in the Area Program in Poetry Writing and is a vital member of that community, although anyone who knows Ja’Mel knows also that his caring, principled personhood extends deeply into many areas of the University community and beyond.
“He writes with forthright courage about issues of race, gender, faith, technology, and place that could not be more timely,” she wrote in email.
Reed, a Lawn resident this year, has been involved in several extracurricular committees and activities over his time on Grounds, including serving as a University Guide and a tour guide at Monticello; as a peer adviser in the Office of African-American Affairs and as a student mentor for the Meriwether Lewis Institute; and this year, as a co-chair for UVA’s Housing and Residence Life.
Reed started giving admissions and historical tours at UVA during the end of his first year and started working at Monticello, the home of UVA founder Thomas Jefferson, that summer.