COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton High School and Newton College and Career Academy STEM Institute student Dhakiya Knights has had a week to remember.
First, the senior was announced as the Newton High Class of 2023 valedictorian. Then, just a few days later she learned her college education would be fully funded as she was awarded the full-ride Stamps Scholarship to attend Mercer University.
The Stamps Scholars Program emphasizes the students’ initiative, from engaging in philanthropic efforts worldwide to conducting research and demonstrating a passion for improving local communities. Mercer’s Stamps Scholars embody both academic achievement and effective leadership.
The Stamps Scholarship program will pay both full tuition and fees plus room and board and also provide Knights with a free Apple iPad. Additionally, the Stamps Scholar benefit includes up to a $16,000 enrichment stipend over four years to support study abroad, undergraduate research, unpaid internships and conference fees and travel.
Knights said the news totally caught her off guard.
“I was shocked and excited to learn I had earned this scholarship,” she said. “This really takes the weight off the financial pressures of college.”
Knights explained how earning this scholarship would help return the favor for all of the support her parents had provided her throughout her educational career.
“One thing I’ve always wanted to do since my parents worked so hard—they are immigrants—is I’ve always wanted to do better than they have in life,” she explained. “So I see this as, like, a natural progression. Okay, they got me this far, now what I want to do is get them to the next step. I don’t want them to have to help me take out loans or anything if that’s possible, so to really reach out and be independent and give back this thank you by basically saying, ‘hey, I got it. I can take it to the next level, and you’ve done all you can do.’”
Knights admitted she hadn’t considered Mercer at first—at least not until the campus visit.
“Mercer wasn’t really on my radar until I went to visit,” she said. “I just really liked the community; they were really welcoming, and they just make sure you have a personalized experience. So it just felt really homely, and it was the small size that I was looking for. And then I looked and they had all of the potential majors and also the potential minor (I wanted) so they had all of the things that I wanted in one place.”
The soon-to-be graduate plans to major in neuroscience with a minor in communication at Mercer. She would then like to pursue advanced degrees. She would like to obtain a medical degree and potentially a PhD. Ultimately, she aspires to become a physician and a biomedical researcher and bridge the gap between research and field medicine.
“I’ve always been interested in science and biology,” she said. “But I’ve witnessed a lot of mental health struggles from my peers throughout my life. And I always felt driven to help and I wanted to help. After I came to STEM and learned about lab research and biotechnology I realized I wanted to do both. I want to help people and patients and I also want to do research because I’m really passionate about it and I like writing and being in the lab.”
The numerous Advanced Placement classes she’s taken — which include Psychology, World History, Calculus, Language, Literature, US History, Statistics, Seminar, Macroeconomics and Biology — have prepared her for the rigors of college. A plethora of extracurricular activities on her resume show also show her well-roundedness as a student. During her time in high school, she’s participated in tennis, HOSA (Future Health Professionals), National Honor Society, Beta Club, STEM Council and the Associate Board of Directors.
Newton College and Career principal Chad Walker had nothing but glowing remarks for Knights, both as a student and a person in general.
“Dhakiya Knights has been an amazing NCCA STEM Institute associate over the past four years,” Walker said. “It has been my pleasure to watch her grow and develop into an exceptional young lady inside and outside of the classroom.”