Whitney Ray is a young lady who knows what she wants to do and has worked hard to turn her goals into realities. As she graduates from Mary Persons, her path for the next eight years seems clear right now—She will spend four years earning her undergraduate degree at Mercer University and will then transition to Mercer’s Medical School where she will spend the next four years earning her medical degree. 

The first in her immediate family to go to college, Whitney received the Jesse Mercer scholarship and has been accepted into Mercer’s Special Considerations Program (SPC). SPC is highly selective, involving applications, interviews, references and other criteria to pick up to 18 students entering its freshman class. Those selected have a clear pathway to admission into Mercer’s Medical School. Whitney said she will receive $112,000 in scholarship funds over the next four years. As an SPC student, if she maintains a good grade point average; completes the required biology, chemistry, physics and math classes; completes at least 100 hours of volunteer work; and achieves required rank on the Medical College Admission Test, she will not even have to interview for a space in medical school four years from now.

Whitney was in her AP biology class on Feb. 28 when she was notified that she had been accepted into the SPC program. She knew it was a life-changing moment.

Whitney said she would love to specialize in obstetrics-gynecology and eventually have her own clinic working with gynecological oncology and reproductive infertility. Whitney said she she began planning to go to medical school when she was 11 or 12. She said she has always liked science and even loves reading non-fiction science works when she can. 

Within the last year she has developed a clearer idea of what she would like to do with her medical degree. Whitney said Mrs. Lauren Griffin and her AP biology class at Mary Persons helped develop her more specific interest and give her motivation to follow her dream.

“Mrs. Griffin is amazing, a true role model and mentor,” said Whitney. “She helped me realize I can do this.”

She said there are some of the best and most supportive teachers to be found at Mary Persons, including Counselor Teresa Roller, Mr. Meeks and Mrs. Lane. They took the time to help her prepare for the SCP interview. Whitney took a number of AP courses, including history, government, English and economics as well as biology, and took two classes at Middle Georgia State College as a dual enrollment student. She feels they have all helped her prepare for the next chapter in her education.

While making good grades in tough classes, Whitney also worked at Ingles Market for the last two years, working up to 40 hours per week. She was hired as a cashier and has worked U-Scan, the gas island and the office. She said the job has taught her a lot about interacting with people and has helped her grow as a person. 

Whitney has been involved in various activities outside the classroom at Mary Persons, too, including serving on student council for four years. She was in the Spanish Club and on the leadership team in the Spanish Honors Society. She was also on the leadership team of the Biology Club. BETA Club gave her opportunities to volunteer in the community. The Health Occupations Student Association (HOSA) gave her some insight in the medical field. Serving on the Senior Executive Committee planning activities for seniors left her trying to think outside the box about activities as this year changed over the last two months. 

Whitney also finds time to spend with her six-year-old sister, Serenity (“She’s precious!” she said.) and appreciates other members of her family being supportive, including her mom and her aunt, Maria Haymon, who teaches at T.G. Scott. Besides her dad, her family includes an older sister, Cher, and two older brothers. Cher, 27, encouraged Whitney’s plans for college and helped with applications. 

Working almost full time, studying for challenging classes, leading clubs and meeting family obligations has taught Whitney some valuable lessons about time management. She said she has white boards in her room that remind her of priorities for the day when she wakes up. 

“Planners are my best friends,” she said. “If something has to give, it’s my sleep, but I try to get at least six hours. Mary Persons has taught me how to be involved without being overwhelmed, how to best devote myself to different things equally.”

Particularly in light of the abrupt changes to her senior year in the last two months, Whitney’s advise to those still in high school is, “Don’t take it for granted. Life isn’t fair. Take each day and appreciate it. Appreciate each moment.”