Shayla Adams, a 19-year-old junior at Wellesley College who is interning at Rep. Elijah E. Cummings' office this summer, acknowledges that she probably would not be where she is today without the work of Gloria Faye Wise Washington Wallace.
Washington Wallace, who died July 4 at age 59 in her Columbia home after a seven-month battle with breast cancer, is credited with starting the Black Student Achievement Program, which has helped countless African-American students in the school system, Adams said.
"I dare to say that every African- American student in Howard County that went to college was affected by her," said Adams, who graduated in 2004 from Oakland Mills High School. "She created a support system in the community for African-American students."
Born in West Baltimore, Washington Wallace graduated from Edmondson High School, earned a bachelor's degree in teaching from Morgan State University in 1968 and a master's degree from Indiana State University in counseling in 1971.
She began teaching elementary school in Baltimore in 1971, then started a 30-year-career in Howard County in 1976.
Washington Wallace came to the school system as a reading teacher at Wilde Lake Middle School. In 1978, she became a guidance counselor at Owen Brown Middle School. She moved to Hammond High in 1985 as a guidance counselor. In 1987, she began the Black Student Achievement Program, which focused on academic interventions and success.
"She had as much passion as I have ever seen in anyone for all of our students," said Patti Caplan, school system spokeswoman.
"She was committed to their success, not just academically, but personally."
Through the Black Student Achievement Program, Washington Wallace helped start the Black Student Achievement Council of Elders, an organization of African-American senior citizens who volunteer and work as mentors for African-American students.
The Black Student Achievement Program had an influence beyond African-American students.
The school system followed the lead of the program by beginning to identify the learning styles of all students, Caplan said.
"The system began to recognize that while our African-American students had some unique needs in the education settings, there were many things that could be applied to the whole student population," she said.
Through the Black Student Achievement Program, Adams was given money to take an SAT preparatory class that she said helped her get into college.
"That class was what set me apart from other applicants," Adams said. "It was under her guidance and leadership that allowed young leaders to grow."
Diane Martin, director of student, family, and community services for the Howard County school system, worked with Washington Wallace for 20 years and always was impressed with the way she was able to inspire students, co-workers and parents.
"She believed in getting as many people involved as possible to ensure the academic success for students," Martin said. "Gloria could fill a room on any given night with 80 to 100 parents."
Washington Wallace loved to come to work each day, said her husband of eight years, Donald L. Wallace.
"She loved ... working with children," Wallace said. "Part of our wedding vows were to continue working with children and the betterment of their education."
Wallace said his wife believed that children are the future and present.
"Being black, black children [were] her first focus, but she worked for all children," Wallace said. "All children were welcome."
Adams added: "Her passion and dedication to education - specifically for black students - was unmatched and unrivaled. She equipped us with the tools to make us successful students and people in general. She was amazing."
In addition to her husband, Washington Wallace is survived by two children from her first marriage; a son, Gregg Washington, who lives in the District of Columbia, and a daughter, Brittny Washington, who lives in Columbia; and four stepchildren, Adei, Donald II, Dawud, and Diop Wallace, who all live in Columbia.