Miss Livingstone, who’s going to medical school, will be in on Saturday activities
Unlike most college students, Annakay Edwards rarely gets to go home on breaks or during the holidays because she’s from Jamaica and can’t afford the travel. So for the past four years, Livingstone College and Salisbury have been her home.
In fact, Edwards has seen her parents only once since enrolling at Livingstone in the fall of 2010, yet despite that she has successfully met the challenges and rigors of college head on. And this Saturday when Edwards walks across the stage to get her degree, she will do so with a 3.8 GPA, as the reigning Miss Livingstone, as a star member of the women’s cross country and track and field team and with medical school on the horizon.
Commencement for Annakay and about 160 graduating seniors begins at 10 a.m. in Alumni Memorial Stadium. In the case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved inside Varick Auditorium. Jocelyn Frye, senior fellow, Center for American Progress and the former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama, is the keynote speaker.
“It’s not easy to say goodbye to students like Annakay Edwards because they certainly don’t come around too often,” said Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr. “Ms. Edwards has demonstrated nothing but excellence in academics, true sportsmanship on the playing field and high moral character since she arrived here. She has performed her duties as Miss Livingstone College with beauty and grace, and she has tried to lead by example. I have no doubt she’ll have a successful professional career, and I’m glad she chose Livingstone College from which to launch it.”
Edwards, 22, is from St. Andrew, Jamaica. She came to Livingstone on a track scholarship and said she’s enjoyed her time at the institution, in part, because it has helped her become more outgoing.
“Serving as Miss Livingstone College has helped me in many ways and has brought me out of my shell,” said Edwards, a soft-spoken woman who is a great writer and whose smile can brighten any room. “Now I’m able to talk to people without getting nervous. I’m a more confident individual, and by being Miss Livingstone I’ve gotten the opportunity to become more familiar with the faculty and staff.”
Edwards said her parents, Allen and AnnMarie Edwards, sheltered her when she was younger.
“My parents didn’t really allow me to go anywhere, so after a while I adapted to that lifestyle,” she said. “When I came to college I wasn’t used to going out and having fun.”
As Miss Livingstone College, Edwards has had to organize functions, speak at weekly assemblies, represent the college off-campus and attend meetings with Jenkins and other institution officials.
It’s good she has developed a knack for taking charge because she aspires to become a heart surgeon. “It all started with my passion for science,” Edwards explained. “I just really loved everything science-related. My preference has always been more with the human body because I am just fascinated by it. I decided for sure I wanted to become a physician when I saw the movie ‘John Q’ starring Denzel Washington and Kimberly Elise.”
In the movie, Washington takes a physician, played by actor James Woods, and several other hospital employees hostage while bargaining for a heart for his young son who will die without a transplant.
“I could empathize with the young boy in the movie because when I was a child I felt a pain every now and again in the area where my heart is,” Edwards said. “I’ve been diagnosed as having a slight heart murmur and heart murmurs are common, however, I’ve been advised to get yearly checkups.”
Edwards, who Livingstone cross country and track and field Coach Justin Davis describes as “the epitome of the consummate student-athlete,” is serious about attending medical school. So much so that she’s already been accepted at The American University of Antigua College of Medicine and is waiting to hear from other medical schools. She also spent virtually the entire summer last year in a medical education development program sponsored by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The rigorous program was designed to mimic a medical school curriculum for aspiring doctors and dentists.
Edwards heard about the program from Dr. Alexandria Proctor, a Livingstone professor who told her it’d be a good way to get exposed to medical school to determine whether that’s definitely what she wants to pursue after graduating from Livingstone.
“I really loved it,” Edwards said. “It was very difficult, but I really loved it. The program gave me the reassurance I needed for my chosen path. It removed all doubt I had about whether medical school would be too difficult for me and basically whether I’d be able to get through it. Everything you hear about medical school scares you, but I have faith that with the strong footing I’ve gotten here at Livingstone, with the backing of my parents, siblings and friends and with the grace of God I’ll get through it.”
Edwards is the oldest of her parents’ children and has three younger siblings: Alethia, 20, Amoya, 15 and Alexander, 2. Alethia is a sophomore bio-chemistry major at Coppin State University in Baltimore. Edwards spent last Christmas in Baltimore with her sister but has seen her parents only once since coming to Salisbury, during Christmas break 2011, until they arrived in town for her graduation on Thursday. The trip is their first to the United States.
“As much as Jamaica is a wonderful country, mommy believes there are many more opportunities outside the country, so seeing Alethia and me go to another country and do well makes her feel very proud and confirms her faith in her parenting skills,” Edwards said. “I talk to both of my parents but especially a lot to mommy. I contact her on Facebook every now and again, though we don’t make many phone calls because it’s so expensive.”
Facebook, emails and phone calls are an effective way to communicate, particularly in today’s global society. But there’s no doubt Edwards has benefitted from some very caring faculty and staff members with whom she has interacted face-to-face while at Livingstone.
In addition to Proctor, she credits Earl Brown Jr., Ben Davis, Dr. Joanne K. Harrison, Jenkins, Dr. Kainda Katembo, Teresa Moore-Mitchell, Sidney C. Sessoms Jr., Helen Turner and Dr. Rufus Williamson with helping her successfully navigate college.
“Dr. Jenkins definitely believes in seeing the students here at Livingstone College take their rightful place in the global society when they graduate,” Edwards said. “I’m definitely a testament to that. When I realized I had to pay for my application fees for graduate school, he stepped up and contributed to this endeavor.
“I appreciate all that he does for Livingstone students and particularly what he has done for me,” Edwards continued. “I’ll be so proud on Saturday to become a graduate of Livingstone College, and I hope only that the work I do moving forward and any accomplishments I achieve will reflect positively upon this institution that means so much to me.”
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