Tragedy leads to celebration of life at Theatre VCU


Jett Higham

In just a 10-minute walk covering no more than three blocks in the Richmond neighborhood of Jackson Ward in July 2013, 18-year-old Jett Higham was gone − fatally shot during what police called a “robbery gone bad,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Toni-Leslie James

Toni-Leslie James

“It’s a reality I hope no one has to go through – losing a child to such senseless violence,” said Higham’s mother, Toni-Leslie James, director of costume design and associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Theatre in the School of the Arts.

“Jett was such an amazing, vibrant, beautiful kid,” James said. “We just have to continue on. I can understand how this type of tragedy can totally destroy a family. It’s been our mission to keep our family intact and to try to love and learn and laugh and continue on.”

Struggling with the enormity of the crime and looking for a way to support James in its aftermath, faculty, staff and friends at Theatre VCU rallied to create the Jett Higham Costume Design/Technology Scholarship to celebrate his life and to help talented students.

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