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Students with Augusta ties named national HBCU Scholars

August 5, 2021

Three students with Augusta connections have been honored by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Madison Stafford, 19, of Jonesboro, Georgia, and LeShawn Doolittle, 53, ofAugusta, both Paine College students, and Joshua Gayle, of Augusta, who attends Voorhees College in Denmark, S.C., were named as HBCU Scholars by the U.S. Department of Education.

Out of more than 200 applicants from across the nation, 86 were selected. The three will be expected to serve as ambassadors to the program and to their fields of study, according to a new release issued Tuesday.

"The students who hold this honor are committed to creating a more just and equitable society through their civic engagement. They are leaders and change-makers in their communities," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said.

"It's a pretty big honor to me, personally," Gayle said. "I don't like to be in the spotlight, but to have someone say 'this person should be part of this opportunity' is big."

"I never thought I would get it and I'm just so blown away, because I feel like 'Wow, a nontraditional student who just took a leap of faith to even attend school,' " Doolittle said. "Now, all of a sudden, all these wonderful things are happening for me."

"I'm really proud because I come from a family of people that went to college but didn't finish," Stafford said. "So I really try to make my mark there, make them proud."

Each applicant is signed off by a college's president, and must exhibit academic achievement, civic/campus engagement and entrepreneurial ethos.

Stafford has a 3.88 GPA, was an Orientation Committee member and is a residential assistant. She is a sophomore biology student, who was looking for an HBCU not too far from home. Her first year was as a virtual student, so she has not been able to explore the campus much. But, she is looking forward to experiencing the school's homey, close-knit vibe, she said.

"They have welcomed me with open arms and have been a great … transition over from high school to college," she said.

Doolittle has a 3.78 GPA, is a member of Collegiate 100 and is seeking an advisory position on Student Government Association's Parliament. She has had several family members go to Paine, and after her family suffered some big setbacks, including a bankruptcy, she was inspired to go back to school.

"I was going through some devastating times and I had to come to grips that I control my fate and I have to do something to set myself up in a better place," Doolittle said. "Each year just got better for me. I love learning anyway, and just being able to go to school when I thought I couldn't at such a low time in my life, this was a beacon."

Gayle has a 3.7 GPA, is Student Government Association president and the student representative on the school's board of trustees. He is a senior business administration major with a focus in finances. In addition, while at Lucy Craft Laney High School, he was in JROTC and continued with ROTC in college.

"My mom raised me to [believe] if I want something, and I know I wanna commit to it, I gotta commit to it and see it through," he said.

Stafford wants to go into pediatrics and is interested in some form of internship, job shadowing or research opportunity. Doolittle is finishing accounting and is looking into working for herself after graduation. Gayle is pursuing a commission into the U.S. Army.

By: Miguel Legoas
For: Augusta Chronicle

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