better place without enduring W r i t i n g
Growing up in the Jacksonville Housing Authority in Florida, Donique Wray faced challenges from the start. Before she was born, her mother ran away from home at age 13 to live on the streets. Then when she was 9, her father was sentenced to life in prison for committing murder. In this world, with an absent father and mother who struggled to survive and to recognize the value in herself and her daughter, Donique lacked role models who could guide her. She had to learn to self-parent, and her anger often got the best of her, leading to difficulties in the school, including frequent absences and low performance, despite her challenges and stubborn attitude. Dominique’s school counselor, Travis Pickney, saw something special in her. Encouraging her to move beyond the past, he began to work with her to help her develop hope and vision for the goals she could achieve. He advised her to retrain her focus on attendance, academic performance, and college tests. She got it. She began to work tirelessly, retaking whole credit courses she had failed, starting grade recovery, mentoring at-risk ninth graders, and retaking the SAT, all while working at the local library. During that period, she used her passion for writing to create a short film to help other students learn from her academic and social mistakes.
After raising her scores and GPA and joining the Hicks Prep Club, Donique was accepted to the University of North Florida (UNF) and awarded the Hicks Scholarship-4 years of tuition, room and board, and meals worth $80,000. She made a strong start, especially considering her past. Unique set academic goals with the Assistant Director of UNF Foundation Scholarships, Probyn Inniss, and chose to spend time with friends who nurtured her. She also camped out regularly at the Writing Center at UNF, revising and improving her papers, working to improve her writing skills one the way to one of her life goals- writing books and blogs that can help others.
Donique understands the persistence it takes to advocate for yourself, to fight for people, resources, and opportunities that promote success. She does not yet know whether she will focus on criminal justice, sociology, or English literature. But she has inner wisdom to know that regardless of what she majors, being true to her own passion and vision will help her finish strong. As she says, “You can’t get to a better place without enduring the difficulty of the challenges on the path.”