NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Three years into her tenure, Norfolk State University’s president is reflecting on the last year and a half on campus.

Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston became the university’s seventh president before the 2019-2020 school year.

Eight months into her new job, the world changed upside down practically overnight. Staff worked to make sure students not only stayed safe during the COVID-19 pandemic but also remained educated.

“Not once did I hear anyone complain about having to work or pivot or having to do what was unprecedented,” she said. “We hadn’t had a pandemic like this in 100 years. We didn’t know how this would go.”

COVID-19 restrictions went into place while students were on spring break. Adams-Gaston said everyone worked to make sure they got students what they needed.

Fast forward to the fall semester of this year, they’re working to be an example for others in the community.

Adams-Gaston says 90% of students are vaccinated.

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“Our students have been spectacular. They meet all of our demands and do the things that need to be done to have a safe environment. The same is of our employees,” she said.

To recognize the struggles and difficulties of COVID, the school is giving money to those who show proof of vaccination: $500 for students and $1,000 for staff.

“We really need to ensure that our community, our campus, was educated about the importance of the vaccine and vaccinating,” Adams-Gaston said. ” We knew we had a disproportional impact on the Black and Brown community related to deaths to COVID-1 and the number of people hospitalized due to COVID. We know it had a differential impact on our environment. We know the entire community wanted to be as safe as possible.”

That investment to students and staff isn’t the only one.

In 2020, Dominion Energy donated $2.7 million to the university for student retention and last month, Bank of America donated $100,000, which will go to the school’s recently opened Innovation Center.

In August, NSU, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and Old Dominion University announced they were partnering up to open a School of Public Health.

Adams-Gaston says the projects and investments highlight the excellence that exudes from those on campus.

“I think the visibility of Norfolk State and the success of our faculty and students, in terms of really being leaders and committed to the success and providing excellence, and diversity, those things are important,” she said.

Adams-Gaston says there are many great things in store for Norfolk State and she hopes her legacy will show a culture of caring as well as those associated with the school’s impact not only the community but the world.

“I hope people remember we are a center of excellence in higher education. We’re a top-20 HBCU. We have students that are brilliant and looking to change the world,” she said. “They’re really looking to go out and do things they hadn’t considered in terms of careers. I hope we are in a position where we can continue to provide the best tools for our students and prepare them for first day ready for careers and first day professional schools. I hope they leave with this is a place that is important. And, what you do comes from the community, you bring it into the institution, and return it to the community with excellence.”