Here’s someone we should all be very proud of! This Sunday Katie Washington will become the first black valedictorian in Notre Dame’s 168-year history — and she has even bigger plans for the future. She’ll begin John Hopkins eight-year M.D./Ph.D program next Fall to become a medical scientist! Details on the flipside.
Washington has been awarded a full scholarship to John Hopkins, worth about $500,000, plus a stipend to help cover housing and living expenses.
“I’m so humbled by it,” said Washington, a biological sciences major with a 4.0 grade point average.
“Some older people speak about the pride they feel, based upon the things that have transpired in their lives,” she said. “But being valedictorian gives me such an overwhelming confirmation that I’ve been on the right path by holding to some simple principles of being kind to people and always doing the best that I can, in whatever I’m doing.”
Washington says her parents have helped to inspire her to pursue a career in science and medicine. After losing his father and brother during childhood, her father became a Gary, Indiana internist who often donates free medical care to patients who can’t afford to pay for it. Her mother is a surgical nurse who works as a site manager for one of Gary’s federal WIC programs, serving low-income women, infants and children.
“My mom grew up in a Gary housing project at a time when the world was saying, ‘You’re a black woman and there’s so little you can do,’” Washington said. “Both of my parents were in situations where poverty was real. They were the underdogs, but they still fought and worked hard to change their lives and the lives of others.”
Growing up in Gary, Ind., the public schools Katie attended were touched by the street violence that claimed the lives of several classmates. Those experiences lead her to give back while at Notre Dame, working on anti-violence efforts on behalf of youth and mentoring and tutoring girls in a South Bend high school.
“They reminded me of myself in high school,” she said. “I could remember feeling insignificant and not as beautiful or talented as the next person.”
“I wanted those girls to feel like they had someone championing them,” Washington said. “I told them they didn’t have to feel isolated or marginalized.”
Washington is incredibly focused and it will show in the commencement speech she has prepared for Sunday’s Notre Dame graduation. The theme is about how to remain grounded enough during life’s high moments so that when the time comes to return to reality, you can get back to work and not feel like the day after is such a let-down.
“Right now, we’re all on a personal high,” she said. “But what do we do the day after graduation when the applause stops and reality hits? A lot of us are scared. I know I’m scared about going to school for the next eight years. My speech is about moving past those moments and being productive despite the angst and anxiety.”
This is a great story — someone who could have been the spoiled daughter of a doctor, but instead chose to work hard and help better the lives of others. She seems like a really sweet girl and we wish her the best on Sunday during her speech as well as during her studies at John Hopkins. We’re proud of you Katie!!!