Inspiration from Boykins

Senior Tone Boykins works to better the lives of VWC students

She manages a homeless shelter, serves as vice president for Tri Beta National Biology Honors Society, assists Jason Seward in his office and works long hours in the chemistry lab all while battling an irreversible genetic disorder.

Senior biology major and chemistry minor Tone Boykins was diagnosed at birth with sickle-cell anemia, a genetic disorder involving episodes of intense and even debilitating pain called ‘crises’. Despite this, she has kept a nearly perfect GPA and is an active member in several organizations on campus.

“I would place her in the top 10 percent of the students I’ve seen coming through the department in the last 15 years,” professor of biology Victor Townsend said.

Growing up with sickle cell, Boykins spent a large chunk of her time in the hospital due to her frequent episodes of crises. As a result, she plans on attending medical school so she can become a pediatrician specializing in blood disorders.

“I’m so used to being at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) and going through all of the processes and such and now I want to be the smiling face that they see,” explained Boykins.

Sickle Cell anemia is a debilitating disease where a person’s blood clots when they experience intense temperature and altitude changes. It therefore limits what a person can do on a daily basis. Boykins, however, has found ways around her limitations.

“Sickle cell has made me maybe a stronger person because I’m so used to dealing with it that it’s like I automatically find alternatives for things… so I guess I take that and I put it in my school work,” said Boykins.

As the faculty manager of the homeless shelter, Takeyra Collins has worked closely with Boykins over the past four years. Although Collins has never actually officially taught Boykins in a class, Collins has not missed the exceptional work Boykins does.

I hope that students strive to be as active and as focused in their academics as she has been,” Collins said.

Boykins is currently conducting research alongside Dean of the Batten Honors College, Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Chemistry/Physical Science Department Dr. Joyce Easter to improve environmentally friendly practices in chemical research. Easter explained how Boykins works with what is called a supercritical fluid extractor (SFE) to extract oils from spices using carbon dioxide. In this method of extraction, the researcher is not left with excess waste to throw away because the carbon dioxide goes back into the air.

“The chemistry lab is like my house.”

—Tone Boykins

Easter explained her interest in this research as an effort to align VWC’s student research with Green Chemistry practices. A main principle of Green Chemistry is that chemists should create minimal amounts of waste. While VWC chemistry students have used the SCFE in classes, Easter wants to deduce if using the extractor is as effective as using other more common and less environmentally friendly methods. She plans on presenting results to other schools.

“The chemistry lab is like my house,” Boykins joked.

In addition to the hours she spends researching, Boykins still has other classes to complete. Easter noted how she often sees Boykins and her friends working late into the night in the lab.

“We make studying fun and that’s what I like most,” Tamera Edler, study partner and friend of Boykins said.

According to Tamera and Antionette Edler, Boykins is just as funny as she is hardworking. Whether it’s running to chick-fil-a for chicken nuggets or cramming for a test, Boykins keeps a positive outlook, cracking jokes and making up raps about her life.

“She’s always rapping about chicken nuggets… If the medical field don’t work, then we going to the Rap Game and we gonna be managers and rappers,” the Edler sisters said.

According to her friends, professors and co-workers, Tone carries with her a constantly positive outlook on life.

“She’s high spirited and she has a good atmosphere. She doesn’t let anything get her down,” Edler said.

Laurissa Senecal

(Photo: Cora Wilson | Marlin Chronicle)