Higher Education and the Arts Are A Family Affair

Art is Roman Ahmad’s passion. He can’t envision a future that doesn’t involve letting his creativity flow. 

“I’ve been drawing since 2009, and I hope to find a creative career in the future,” said Ahmad.

To that end, he is sharpening his skills at Virginia Peninsula Community College, where he is a visual arts major. 

The Yorktown resident is following in the footsteps of his sister, Niyah, a 2020 VPCC graduate. 

“Her experience at VPCC and the opportunities it provided her motivated me to pursue my education (there),” explained Roman. “Along with it being a great value for the money and allowing me to transfer to a four-year college in two years, I think VPCC is the ideal choice for me.” 

Roman specializes in drawing characters and cartoons and his dedication to the craft has grown steadily since he first put pencil to sketchpad. Having graduated from York River Academy in 2023, he sees the College as the perfect launch pad to achieve her goals.

His laser focus is such that Roman is dedicating all his energy to education ahead of other interests.

“Right now, I’m not employed,” he noted. “I plan to finish college before getting a job.”  

After earning an Associate of Fine Arts in visual arts, Roman foresees within the next five years, graduating from a four-year university and putting his talent work in a creative field.  

Roman values his family and is grateful they allow him space to blossom. The support goes a long way.

“I want to thank my immediate and extended family for their unwavering support and encouragement throughout the last 12 years of my life,” he said. 

Like the zeal for higher education, a penchant for the arts runs in the family.

Niyah launched a career in film after completing studies at VPCC and recently graduating magna cum laude from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts (VCUarts) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography and film and a minor in creative writing. 

A Richmond resident, she is fiercely committed to her freelance work as an audio producer and independent filmmaker.

“Going in with audiovisual technical experience from high school theatre, I took photography and film courses at both VPCC and VCUarts and expanded my artistic skillset beyond expectation,” said Niyah. 

“I’ve always possessed an all-consuming enthusiasm for film. I used to draft scripts and videos with friends and family on occasion, but it wasn’t until I took some intro classes at VPCC that I finally gained the confidence to consider film in a professional capacity,” she added, noting that she started freelancing in 2020 and used her VPCC body of work to apply to VCU’s competitive film program.

Reflecting on her time at VPCC, where she majored in liberal arts based on her affinity for psychology, creative writing, and the arts, Niyah appreciates the affordability, competitive guaranteed admission agreements and the “intellectually stimulating” classes.  

“VPCC served as the perfect stepping-stone for adjusting to a collegiate lifestyle … I thrived on being challenged in new ways, and my professors ensured that students didn’t just memorize material, but fully understood and could elaborate or apply what they learned,” she said.

Niyah noted the College also provided a platform between classes for her to make enriching connections. She cites service as vice president and later president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and membership in the National Society of Leadership and Success as examples.

“The diverse community on campus nurtured my drive for accomplishment and created a fun and safe environment to branch out,” she said.

 She is also grateful for the growth opportunities several VPCC faculty and staff members availed. 

"My advocate and honor society advisor, Dr. Valerie Burge-Hall, my language instructor Sylvain Poosson, and my TRiO SSS coordinator, Virginia Keithley, all encouraged my academic and personal growth," she said.  

“I was impressed by the level of dedication shown by the faculty and staff … how they truly cared about the success and wellbeing of every individual student. I excelled in my classes not because they were easy but because I grew with every new challenge and had support in and out of the classroom,” Niyah added.

She credits the College with setting the stage for her thriving career. 

Niyah relishes the collaborative aspects of her job. Working with individuals who bring unique perspectives fuels her creativity. As a director, editor, and audio producer, she pushes boundaries to create compelling stories on screen.

“I love working with passionate people … Having worked in various positions, including in the props and camera departments, I’ve gotten to physically influence how scenes of a film or show will look and change,” she said.

“As an imaginative editor, I can shift realities using techniques I learned while at VPCC. This goes hand in hand with my work as an audio recordist and producer, creating whole soundscapes and experimenting with unconventional items to make cool and believable effects,” added Niyah. 

Her talent, including having films showcased in festivals and venues across the nation, garnered her the prestigious Black History in the Making Award from VCU in 2023. 

Beyond professional endeavors, civic engagement occupies Niyah’s time as she is committed to giving back to her community. She participates in film and television productions such as Apple TV’s “Swagger” and mentors aspiring film students. The 2018 Tabb High School graduate is also filming a documentary in her native Hampton Roads. The piece aims to shed light on the vibrant narratives within the community.

Looking forward, Niyah envisions opening a film production studio and furthering her education. 

"My goal as a professional creative is to continue producing artwork that I’m proud of. I have plans to open my film production studio in the coming years. I also want to further my educational experience and am particularly interested in VPCC’s drone certification program."

Poised to set the cultural arts world ablaze with their talents and passion, the Ahmad siblings made VPCC a family affair.