Incoming freshman is determined to be heard


Charly Dutton had a decision to make, and it would depend as much on her emotions as her determination.

The incoming freshman at George Mason University and member of Mason’s Honors College was on campus competing to become a University Scholar, which would pay her tuition.

headshot of girl on mason campus
Charly Dutton. Photo provided

But the day before her session, Dutton got word that the dog she had for 10 years, a Maltese/Yorkie mix named Brenna, had died.

Eva Bramseco, associate director for undergraduate admissions at the Honors College, gave Dutton the option of going home and continuing the intensive competition virtually. But Dutton, who will major in government and international politics, was steadfast and earned her scholarship.

“In the moment, I was just numb,” Dutton said. “But I took it, like, she made it this far, because had she died before I left, I wouldn’t have been able to make it. So I did the competition with the feeling that I did it for her. She made sure I got down [to Mason].”

“Competing for a full scholarship and the death of a pet are big life events for any of us,” Bramesco said. “That she was able to carry all the emotions and still be a full participant during our group challenge certainly stood out to me.”

Dutton, from Sicklerville, New Jersey, about 25 miles southeast of Philadelphia, definitely stands out.

She was student body president at her high school. When the school’s principal was asked about students who might be interested in joining the NAACP East Camden County Youth, he immediately thought of her. And when Sicklerville had this summer’s Juneteenth celebration, Dutton, a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, was the host on stage.

She plans to one day be on an even bigger stage when she runs for office, maybe to be a senator from New Jersey.

“Since I want to run for office, I need to help the driving force of my generation,” Dutton said. “It seems like everyone wants to be involved. I just want to be part of that and inspire others to get involved as well.”

Dutton, who also wants to be a lawyer, got a taste of that involvement when she spoke in front of the New Jersey Apportionment Committee, which is in charge of drawing the lines of the state’s 40 legislative districts.

“When they gerrymander the map, they break up the communities and suppress the minority vote,” Dutton said. “I did not want that to happen to my community.”

“When I spoke, they really took time to listen,” she added. “They actually emailed me later and told me ‘great job and we’re really going to look into it.’ I really did feel heard.”

 Dutton feels as enthusiastic about Mason, even though it wasn’t originally on her radar. During a trip to the area to visit colleges, she and her mother drove by a Mason sign on the highway.

“And when we toured, I just loved it,” Dutton said. “It felt so right.”

It helped when a current student with whom Dutton was on line at a campus coffeehouse talked Mason up as well.

“She just told me how much fun she was having and how many opportunities she had,” Dutton said. “She wasn’t my major, but she sounded like she was going far. I want to go far like her.”