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MADISON, MS – Aaliyah Cole, a 2017 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, has been named a 2020 recipient of the Mississippi Vision Foundation’s (MVF) Helen Allison St. Clair scholarship for students of optometry.
“We are proud to have a young woman of Ms. Cole’s character, scholarship and leadership to represent the future of the field of optometry as the recipient of the St. Clair scholarship,” said Dr. Kimberly Ragan, president of the Foundation.
Cole, a third-year student at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, is a graduate of Jefferson County High School where she was Valedictorian and the University of Southern Mississippi earning a BS in Biology, Summa Cum Laude, while minoring in Chemistry. She was inducted into the USM Student Hall of Fame. Cole serves as Vice-President of the Mississippi Optometric Student Association, and is a member of the American Optometric Student Association, the National Optometric Student Association and is Chief Editor of SCO’s yearbook. She was selected to participate in the Mississippi Rural Scholars program designed to cultivate well-trained physicians to practice in Mississippi.
“It is an honor to be a 2020 recipient of the Helen St. Clair Scholarship. Growing up in an underserved community, I witnessed a deficit in healthcare and eye care and decided that I wanted to help meet the need. As a current third-year optometry student, I am excited about returning to Mississippi to serve others and provide eye care to those in need. I am truly grateful for this opportunity,” Cole said.
Cole, the daughter of Beatrice and Biven Cole Sr. of Fayette, said her passion for optometry will allow her to serve her community. “Through optometry, I can make an impactful difference in the lives of children with vision-associated learning disabilities that, with proper intervention, could set them on a different path through life. Additionally, I can provide a way for someone who was once unemployed because of vision impairments, to be able to provide for their family with the aid of vision correction and corrective devices. The thought of opening up the world to a child who has had difficulty seeing since a young age or making it possible for a grandparent to see the beautiful faces of their grandchildren motivates me to work hard in my optometric education. In short, I chose optometry to offer the gift of sight to the world and to open the door for endless possibilities,” she said.
The Helen Allison St. Clair Optometry Scholarship was established to honor the memory of long-time Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) Executive Director Helen Allison St. Clair. Mrs. St. Clair served the MOA for more than 28 years and had a passion for optometry students and doctors. Her family and friends want her passion and service to optometry to live on in the awarding of annual stipends from the scholarship established in her name at the Mississippi Vision Foundation.