Family of the Year exemplifies the importance of student support


Keryssa Ward, a senior transfer student, is succeeding at Ƶ with her parents’ support. “My parents have been there every step of the way and I’m very blessed and appreciative of all the things my parents do and have done for me.” 

ward family of the year daughter with her parents
Yolanda, Keryssa, and Kevin Ward, Family of the Year 2023. Photo by Ayman Rashid/Office of University Branding

Ward is majoring in at Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Her family was named the 2023 Alan and Sally Merten Family of the Year at Mason’s Family Weekend. The award, given annually, recognizes the critical role families play in their student’s experience at Mason.

Ward visited Mason twice while she was enrolled at Brightpoint Community College in Chester, Virginia, where she graduated from in 2022 with an associate’s degree. She liked Mason more each time she visited, she said, and also got to know Mason through student videos and videos from Housing and Residence Life on YouTube. She decided to enroll for Spring 2023.

Her parents, Kevin and Yolanda, said Mason has exceeded their expectations. “Keryssa feels comfortable to try new things and considers Mason her home away from home which gives us great comfort as parents,” Yolanda Ward said. “We feel that George Mason is giving Keryssa the foundation she needs to grow and navigate the road to come. She says this school is where God wanted her to be, and we are so thankful!”

Ward’s Family of the Year application essay highlighted her parents’ support for her over the past few years as she tackled college while dealing with a health crisis. During the summer after her first year at Mason, she had a total left hip replacement. She said her parents “were there for me during the painful, lonely days and nights before the surgery and after. My mother and father never left my side.” She described the experience as heartbreaking and shared that her parents’ support helped her stay focused and motivated at school.

Ward said she appreciates that she can be herself at Mason and credits her personal growth to involvement in Mason organizations. She is a My Natural Events coordinator, a member of Every Nation Campus, a member of the Active Leaders program, a , and a 2023 Leadership Mason Conference attendee.

“I have been more confident and social while at Mason because of all the resources, organizations, and connections that I have,” she said. “I have gotten out of my comfort zone many times, and I’m glad I did. I appreciate that everyone has been very welcoming and helpful at Mason.”

A fond memory she has of a time when her parents supported her campus activity involvement is the time she modeled in the African Student Association fashion show. Her mother helped her get dressed and her parents were sitting in the crowd supporting her and cheering her on.

After graduating, Ward plans to return to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Her dream job is to work for Disney’s design team, and she eventually wants to start her own business. She credits her parents for teaching her that she can achieve anything she puts her mind to.