Ever since she was 5 years old, Naeshia McDowell has aspired to be a doctor. That’s when she first glimpsed the fast-paced and focused environment of a hospital emergency room, where her mother worked in patient registration. “I just loved it. It was very exciting. All the doctors and nurses – it seemed like everyone had a job to do, no one was lost, no one felt unwelcome,” said McDowell, 18, a freshman at Georgia State University who plans to major in biology as a pre-med student.

McDowell has worked hard toward her goal, taking advanced math classes during her senior year at Cherokee High School in Canton, Ga. She saved money from part-time and summer jobs. But an education at Georgia State would have been out of reach without the scholarships McDowell received, including the Mary Peavy Girls Club Scholarship, she said. Georgia State’s Mary Peavy scholarship supports students who have shown high academic achievement. Preference is given to incoming freshman and young women who aremembers or former members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta.

Part of a Trend

As an African-American woman, McDowell is a pacesetter at Georgia State. The university has seen a growing enrollment of African-American females. Originally from Charlotte, N.C., McDowell moved to Georgia when she was 8 years old. By that time, she had settled on her future career. She recalls being thrilled by the life-and-death stories her mother told every night after work. “She loved talking about it. That’s how you know you love what you do – you can talk about it and just keep going on and on,” she said.

McDowell occasionally tagged along when her mother went to work. She asked lots of questions as she watched the medical staff come and go. “I’ve been thinking about this career since I was 5 and have not one time turned away from it and said I want to do something else,” she said. “This is what I want to do. It has been with me for that long.”

As a teen in the College Bound after-school program at the Malon D. Mimms Boys & Girls Club in Canton, McDowell learned that she especially enjoyed working with children, so she settled on pediatric medicine. To make sure, she shadowed her own pediatrician as part of an essay assignment for a literature class.

Staying Focused

McDowell is looking forward to her first year at Georgia State and to being in downtown Atlanta. “There’s so much going on down here. I’m excited about that but at the same time I have to focus on school and keep my mind straight on what I want to do. My mom tells me, ‘you’ve got to stay focused.’”

McDowell serves as an inspiration to others at the Boys & Girls Club, where she worked as a counselor to teens and younger children during the summer. Her family couldn’t be prouder. Her father didn’t finish college. Her mother, wanting to set a good example for her children, recently completed a bachelor’s degree.

After she is established in her career, McDowell plans to help others further their education.

“If someone can step in and help me go to college, I should be able to do the same thing,” she said. “This scholarship came from someone else’s heart and I really do appreciate it. This didn’t have to happen to me.”