This year, five local students from the Texarkana area received scholarships from The Jaqualyn Light Prevails Foundation after their essays about gun violence in our area were selected. The foundation was created just two years ago following the murder of Jaqualyn “Lady J” Paxton due to gun violence. Her mother, Shawntell Young created the foundation in hopes to provide education, resources and support to families in our area. “After what I went through, I just couldn’t imagine not doing something to honor her legacy,” says Young. “I don’t want any other mother to go through this. I have put my own money into this foundation to help others, and our community has rallied together with me to help finance many of these endeavors such as the scholarships the last two years,” said Young.
The foundation provides scholarships, anger management and advice for teens, as well as free food to many of our area locals. In their first year of 2020, the foundation was able to help two students from our area whose essays on gun violence struck a chord. “2020 graduates Fortunate Barry and Lauren Jones, received $500 to go towards college books, necessities and food during their first year of college,” said Young. This year the foundation accepted 5 student essays on gun violence, and all were chosen to receive a scholarship. “I want to support all of those that submit their essays. This year I chose five. Each student is receiving $150 that I am personally donating to them. I also asked the community to rally together and match my own donations so that each student could receive an extra $150. We were only able to raise another $520, meaning each graduate will receive $255 to go towards their needs this year,” said Young.
This year’s winners were: Gaylon Williams, Donovan Neal, Nia Stuckey, Tamarqo Wimbley, and Z’Niah Nelson. Gaylon Williams, senior at Arkansas High School, has big plans for his future and his scholarship money. “I will be attending Ouachita Baptist University in the Fall. This money will help go towards some of my needs, and cover some of the expenses I will have when I go off to school. Lady J was like family to me. She was an inspiration, and writing that essay was the least I could do to help stop the violence happening everywhere around us,” said Williams. “I’m excited for others to hear my essay read aloud this summer at the Gun Violence Memorial Walk. I think it’s important for others to hear what we have to say, and to continue to spread Lady J’s story so that she continues to inspire others,” says Williams.
The Jaqualyn Light Foundation will be keeping all essays submitted over the next few years to eventually write a book using the essays submitted by students on gun violence in our area. The foundation will have a Gun Violence Memorial Walk August 24th in Downtown Texarkana to help support, encourage, enlighten and educate those around us of the effects of gun violence. Mayor Allen L. Brown signed a proclamation declaring every August 24th as Jaqualyn (Lady J) Paxton Day, allowing the foundation the opportunity to spread light each year on gun violence as well as celebrating the life of “Lady J.”