It has been proven repeatedly that education has the power to transform lives, and senior Samya Clayton has been given the opportunity to not only have her life transformed by education, but, as a future educator, she’ll be transforming the lives of others.
Clayton will attend the University of Mississippi in the fall on a full-ride scholarship due to her acceptance into the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program (METP).
“The representative from Ole Miss came here one day going over all the scholarships and she mentioned (MEPT),” Clayton said. “I looked into it and set up a meeting with the coordinator of the scholarship, which made me apply for it because he kind of persuaded me.”
Students accepted in the program can receive up to the full cost to attend college and are required to teach in Mississippi for five years after they graduate college.
“Only 30 people get it, and that’s out of the hundreds of people that apply for it all across everywhere,” Clayton said.
Clayton believes her history of babysitting and helping kids with homework while growing up inspired her love for children, but credits her time in the Teacher Academy program for motivating her to become a teacher.
“When I got to high school and found out they offer Teacher Academy, I took that just to know if I really want to be a teacher,” Clayton said. “I took Teacher Academy 1 and 2 and I loved it. It was amazing. The second year is when we actually got to go into classrooms and student teach. After that I realized how much I liked it, I was like, ‘Teaching is for me. I need to do this.’”
Clayton’s passion for teaching in Mississippi stems from her being from the state and knowing what the school systems can be like.
“Mississippi school systems aren’t the best,” Clayton said. “I relate to it because I see kids who come to school and don’t have the motivation for learning and I want to see kids have that motivation. I feel like if you can make it fun for them, it’ll be more interesting, and they’ll want to do it more.”
Though Clayton will be attending Ole Miss for free starting in the fall, her journey to this point has not always been easy. She grew up with a single mom and around “10 or 11” half-siblings in Oxford.
“My dad has never been in my life,” Clayton said. “I have a grandma and my uncle, and he always treats me like a dad. He always tells me, ‘I’m your dad, even though you don’t have your real one. I might as well be.’”
The members of her family have played a key role in convincing her to pursue higher education.
“For some families, going to college, it’s normal,” Clayton said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. In my family, it’s a big deal. No one else in my family went to college,” Clayton said. “If I didn’t go to college, my family wouldn’t be upset because none of them went either. I don’t want to be like that. I want to do good. It makes me feel accomplished.”
One of Clayton’s main motivations to go to college has been her own family, “seeing them not having gone to college and seeing how they’re living now.”
“My mom works hard, but she doesn’t have the best job and part of it could be because she didn’t go to college,” Clayton said. “I don’t want to end up like that so I’m going to work hard to get out of that situation.”
Since Clayton was a child, her grandmother emphasized the importance of education as a way for her to live a comfortable and stable life.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Clayton said. “I knew I had to do well in school and go to college. I always did good in school, mainly because my grandma would tell me to. She was always like, ‘Do good so you can get out of the circumstances you were born into. You don’t have to live like that forever.’ From then on, I always came to school, did my work and did good.”
Though Clayton has had to overcome some obstacles to get to where she is today, she has managed to achieve some of her most important goals. She believes that with hard work and a college education, other students can too.
“An education is the most important thing you can have,” Clayton said. “I think people should look at their long-term goals. Think about what you want to do when you get older. You have to be able to take the steps to get to that. Regardless of what you think, even if you think, ‘This is not going to happen,’ just do it anyway and you’ll be surprised with the results.”