March 31st, 2019

Arete alum reaches for the stars

Fourteen-year-old Kennedy Watson sat with her eyes fixed on her mother.

"I'm investing in you Kennedy. First, I want to make sure you're on board. I believe in you, and I want to make sure this is what you want too."

Kennedy thought about all her friends at the local Snellville, Georgia schools she had attended her whole life. Flashes of fun on the playground and after school danced in her head. Could she really leave all of her friends behind? Could she let her mother sacrifice this much to send her to a better school and new life-changing opportunities?

Saying yes would mean moving from Snellville to College Park to be closer to Woodward Academy. It would mean that her mother would be making a lot of sacrifices to make it work financially. It would mean that Kennedy would be leaving her comfort zone to pursue her dreams.

She thought of all the ways she could help others by being a doctor. She thought of how success would enable her to give back in a more profound way. She thought long and hard about the decision, but in the end, knew it was right to say yes.

From 9th to 12th grade, Kennedy attended Woodward Academy with the help of financial aid and scholarship organizations like Arete Scholars. She chose to attend Howard University in Washington DC, majoring in mathematics and minoring in biology and chemistry. She takes alternative spring breaks to volunteer with likeminded students abroad, and she is president of YALA (Young African Leadership Academy), which provides African immersion and engagement opportunities for young leaders like Kennedy.

Looking back on how she got here, Arete sticks out. According to Kennedy, without the  scholarship, Woodward, Howard and her many philanthropic efforts would not have been possible. She looks back at her friends from Snellville in local or community colleges, without the same access to foreign travel, networking and education, and she feels grateful.

When asked if she could talk to her 14-year-old self, or to other young students considering a similar departure, Kennedy had this to say:

"It's all worth it. Even though you may be scared; even though you may not want to leave your friends or you think you may fail, you'll be happy you tried. Challenge yourself as early in life as you can, and you will be prepared for whatever life throws at you."

Arete is proud of the song Kennedy is singing with her life, and hopeful that her story can inspire others to depart from their comfort zone and pursue their dreams with gusto. 

Contributed by Matt Thomas with Brawl for a Cause