Even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, Webster University recently announced it is investing over $1 million to offer 10 students a full-ride Dr. Donald M. Suggs Scholarship annually.
The school awards the scholarship to academically talented undergraduate students from ethnic groups that are under-represented in higher education.
One of those recipients, Dashauna Mairidith, a graduate of Soldan International Studies High School in Saint Louis Public Schools, is pursuing a biological science major with an emphasis in health and sciences.
“I know that I want to be a medical doctor,” she said. “Now I am just exploring different options as to what I want to do.”
When she got the call from Webster that she was a recipient of the full-ride scholarship, she was in the car with her mom, Binaca Mairidith.
Her mother said they were ecstatic, along with Dashauna’s father.
“We were just so very excited,” Binaca said. “So happy for her, as well, as she was very excited and happy. And Dashauna is not one that shows a lot of emotion in regards to crying and things like that, but when she hung up from that call, tears begin to flow.”
Her teachers at Soldan International Studies High School in the Academy Neighborhood, described Dashauna as an excellent student, gifted and a great friend.
“She enjoys learning and helping her peers learn,” said Angela Bayless, a substitute teacher for the school. “She is a leader and gained respect of most of her peers while in leadership roles. She is organized, takes notes, and has a great memory. I am very excited that she was awarded the Suggs Scholarship to Webster. She is very deserving of this award. I know she will continue to have great success in her learning and achieve her goals.”
Other teachers agreed that her dedication and leadership set her on a course for success.
“As a school counselor, I want all of my students to be as dedicated to their studies as Dashauna, but it is rare to find this level of academic excellence coupled with a healthy social life,” said Theresa Lydon-Lorson, a Soldan guidance counselor.
Her counselor said Dashauna was ranked number one in her class of 129 students. She earned all As during her high school career and received the highest ACT score of any senior who attended Soldan.
Binaca said that her daughter has shown a dedication to her studies since preschool, when she insisted on reading and being read to regularly. With the exception of two or three days, Dashauna came close to having perfect attendance from kindergarten all the way through high school.
Binaca said the star student even managed to surprise her parents with even more talent during her senior year of high school.
“So, her senior year, she got into the Glee Club because she had enough credits,” Binaca said. “She got in the glee club and the acting class. And I'm like, ‘Wow!’ So, we’ve found that she is very talented. She can sing, she knows how to act and perform.”
Dashauna said after three years of rigorous, advanced coursework, she decided to take some extra-curricular classes like drama and choir that she’d never had the chance to experience.
Though a latecomer to the arts, she quickly emerged as a leader.
“In Concert Choir, Dashauna was my right hand,” Kevin Mansco said. “She helped me teach parts, choreography. On days where I was absent, I would literally leave a note for the substitute teacher to allow Dashauna to lead class in my absence.”
As for this semester, Dashauna is adjusting to college life and working hard. While she said she’s having some difficulty in her chemistry class, she’s determined to do well to maintain her GPA and keep the Suggs Scholarship.
“I'm just hoping I can keep the scholarship because it is a blessing,” Dashauna said. “You know, not having to worry about paying for tuition for four years like this, it’s a blessing. That's something that a lot of people don't get.”
The nine other students who received the same blessing this year are Machaela Brock, Francis Howell High School; Jessica Echols, Hazelwood West High School; Bolanle Akinyemi, Fort Zumwalt West High School; Juliette Ferch, Fox Senior High School; Khalisah Habeebullah, Francis Howell High School; Joi’ Johnson, Edwardsville High School; Naba Yasir, Parkway South High School; Jalalah Muhammad, Collegiate School of Medicine; and Khyree Plair, Hazelwood Central Senior High School.
The scholarship named for Donald M. Suggs, publisher and executive editor of The St. Louis American and president of the St. Louis American Foundation. The foundation’s 33rd Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship & Awards Virtual Gala Weekend will be celebrated online as free virtual events on Friday and Saturday, October 16 and 17 on stlamerican.com, the St. Louis American’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. For additional details on how to participate, visit givebutter.com/SaluteEdu.