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National JA scholarship winner from Brookhaven urges other to apply

If you’re a graduate student who wants to learn how to help the children and youth of the world, the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries wants to pay for your education.

Although it’s a national scholarship, there is a chance for a Lincoln County student to be selected. Just ask Ashton Richardson, a Brookhaven native living in Houston, Texas, who was awarded the scholarship in 2015.

It covered a large portion of her expenses throughout the last year of her master’s program in communications sciences and disorders, allowing her to become a speech-language pathology teacher.

The scholarship is awarded to a student pursuing graduate-level studies, which address the special needs of children and youth. Richardson said when her mother informed her of the opportunity she knew the scholarship was created for a purpose she could relate to — helping children.

“I always wanted to work with children,” she said. “I knew that from a young age. I just wasn’t sure what direction. My first major was education. My mom stumbled across speech pathology as a profession through talking to people in Brookhaven. It piqued her interest.”

Richardson said her mom convinced her to shadow Brookhaven speech pathologist Angie Currie for a day.

“I loved it from day one,” she said. “After that, I changed my major to communications sciences and disorders.”

Without the help of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries’ $3,750 graduate scholarship, it would have been difficult for Richardson to complete her studies worry-free.

“I appreciate the scholarship very much,” she said. “It allowed me to continue my education to work in the profession that I love.”

Currently, Richardson works for the Alvin Independent School District as a speech pathologist. She graduated from her master’s program in May and has since been adjusting to life in her new profession.

“At first it was extremely challenging,” she said. “This job has a lot to it, but at the end of the day, I love it. I get to help children learn how to communicate.”

The National Association of Junior Auxiliaries is accepting applications for its graduate scholarship program.

Graduate fields of study that qualify for the scholarship include, but are not limited to, counseling, psychology, mental development, special education, speech pathology, exceptional children, remedial skills development, hearing impaired and gifted and talented.

Scholarships are not awarded for graduate work in administration or in general education.

Applicants must be a permanent United States citizen and a permanent resident of states with chapters of nonprofit Junior Auxiliary. That’s Mississippi but also Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

Scholarship grants are awarded annually to individuals who work or plan to work directly with children. The scholarship program began in 1962 and has since awarded more than $1.2 million.

The deadline to apply for the graduate-level scholarship is Feb. 1. Instructions and application forms are available on the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries website, www.najanet.org.

Ashton Richardson

Ashton Richardson