Gil Burgmaster | March 03, 2021
Creating Change. From The Inside Out.
Chelsea Henry wants to make a difference, and she recognizes that the most effective way to do so might just be from the inside out.
“I want to bridge the gap between the police and the community. Because right now we’re split,” said Henry, who is a junior on the SUNY Brockport women’s basketball team and a trainee in the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. “I want to see more people like me and my color in predominately white career forces and diversifying the workplace. I also want to see the mindset of the community change.”
Her passion to effect change was ignited this past year when her hometown of Rochester, NY, was thrust into the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of Daniel Prude.
“That’s what really woke me up,” said Henry. “I decided we needed to change. This is not right. I decided I wanted to be a part of this change and I wanted to do it within the system.”
As a young Black woman in a constantly changing world, Henry is committed to building her perspective from all angles. The 5’3” guard from Greece Athena High School took on the role of trainee at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department in November 2020, and she plans to continue with a career in law enforcement following her graduation from Brockport with a degree in sport management next spring. As part of her training program, she is beginning to gain valuable experience in all the areas and bureaus in the sheriff’s office.
“I want to create programs to help law enforcement engage with the community, kids, and non-profit organizations,” said Henry. “I want to be in the community and be more involved.”
Her outlook on life is constantly growing through valuable conversations with her family, teammates, coaches, and fellow student-athletes within the campus community. She also recently joined one of Brockport’s newest student groups, Student Athletes for Equity (SAFE), which has a goal of facilitating the tough conversations and promoting change within the Brockport community and beyond.
“SAFE gives me a platform to speak out on topics and concerns that we have in our community and taking those concerns and turning them into actionable goals,” said Henry. “SAFE gives us a platform to have these tough conversations.”
Some of her most valuable life lessons have come through her relationship with her mother, Dr. Myra P. Henry, who was recently named the President and CEO of the Rochester & Monroe County YWCA, as well as her experiences as being a member of the Brockport women’s basketball program.
“My biggest influence would be my mom. She has shown me so much about being determined and fighting for what you want,” said Henry. “Also, a big part of what I’ve learned from my basketball career here at Brockport is fighting through adversity. There are situations that might hold you back, and you have to push through that and be resilient. That’s one of our core values that Coach (Corinne) Jones teaches us — resiliency.”
Henry’s curiosity for personal growth peaked at her first peaceful protest this past year in Rochester, which opened her eyes to the strength that a community can have when it comes together for a common goal.
“I was curious and never had been to a protest before. With the situation that happened here in Rochester, I wanted to be a part of it, and it was enlightening,” said Henry. “It was powerful. I was near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, where they delivered powerful speeches, and then we marched down to the public safety building where we told the police officers about our history and about how this is not right.”
This is just another strong example of how Henry is viewing the world with the widest lens possible.
“I’m trying to broaden my perspectives; I don’t want to be one-sided,” said Henry. “If you’re one-sided you forget someone else’s opinion or someone else’s side of the story. I want to see all the aspects and then use that to create change.”
Henry plans to finish out her degree and basketball career at Brockport next year, while also starting the civil service exams needed to become a state trooper or a member of the road patrol. She would also like to use her sport management degree to open up a fitness facility.