Warm Southern Breeze

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Small town Alabama man makes good with Harvard education & Oxford scholarship

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Waterloo to Harvard to Oxford, Dowdy stresses the importance of college preparation

By Tom Smith, 9/27/12

Jamin Dowdy, Waterloo Harvard Oxford

Jamin Dowdy, a graduate of Waterloo and Harvard, talks with students in Adina Stone’s classes at Covenant Christian School in Tuscumbia about the importance of a college education and academic testing. (Jim Hannon/TimesDaily)

Jamin Dowdy hasn’t decided if he will settle on law or education as a profession once he finishes his studies.

What he does know and what he is trying to stress to high school students is the importance of getting a head start in preparing for college. Dowdy, 22, a 2008 graduate of Waterloo High School, finished at Harvard University in May with a degree in political philosophy.

This afternoon, he leaves from Huntsville International Airport for England, where he will attend Oxford University for a year, studying the connection between math and philosophy as the winner of the Harlech Scholarship.

While preparing for scholarships in high school, Dowdy realized the importance of preparation. But once he got to Harvard, he said he saw how early in school some of his classmates and friends started getting ready for college.

“I had a friend who attended Yale who took calculus in the sixth grade,” Dowdy said. “And he continued to take more advanced courses on throughout high school. He was preparing to apply to colleges for scholarships.

“I knew getting scholarships was very competitive, but I don’t think I realized how competitive it was until I got to Harvard and talked with some of my classmates. There were students there that had been preparing to get into these schools all of their lives.”

On Wednesday, before leaving for Oxford University, Dowdy spent the morning at Covenant Christian School in Muscle Shoals, talking to freshman, sophomores and juniors in Adina Stone’s classes about preparing for college.

He stressed to the students not only the importance of grades, but how important it is for them to be involved in activities in school and in their communities.

“Don’t think just because you are in a smaller school, where a lot of advanced courses may not be offered,” that you can’t compete, he said. “The Internet is a valuable resource.”

He invited the students to go to other high schools’ websites and look at course offerings.

“And take advantage of what (the University of North Alabama) and Northwest-Shoals (Community College) offer high school students,” he said.

He said he took classes during the summer at UNA and Northwest-Shoals to help with his preparation.

“(Both schools) offer these classes free to high school students. And the classes usually will transfer to the college you want to attend,” he said. “It’s a great way to get a head start on college classes and it will help on your scholarship applications.”

Stone, who got to know Dowdy when she taught Latin as a distance learning class while he was at Waterloo, said he is a perfect example that the “sky is the limit.”

“He is so awesome. I love that boy and I am so proud of him,” Stone said.

Stone said Dowdy made an impression on her students during the brief time he spoke with them.

“They needed to hear what he had to say,” Stone said. “They need to understand the importance of preparing for college. He’s a perfect example of that.”

Dowdy said it is important to be involved in public service projects.

As a senior at Harvard, he organized a book drive, collecting books from his friends and classmates, to send to Waterloo High School Library.

Now, even as he is leaving for Oxford, England, he is working on developing a nonprofit organization to purchase prep-ACT textbooks for sophomores in small rural schools in northwest Alabama.

“I love Waterloo and I want to do all I can to help Waterloo, so I want to start this project there and then branch out to other small rural schools in the county and the region,” Dowdy said. “The ACT is so important; most people don’t understand how important it is. But the ACT score can mean a lot when it comes to scholarships.

Stone said what Dowdy is trying to do shows the kind of person he is and how important community involvement is to him.

“He is a class act and has really accomplished a lot,” she said. “He is an exceptional young man.”

After leaving Huntsville this afternoon, Dowdy will arrive in England early Saturday morning.

He said his first week there will be orientation. Classes begin Oct. 7.

The Lord Harlech Scholarship is specifically for Harvard seniors or graduates to attend Oxford University. Only one student is selected to attend Oxford. Next year, a student from Oxford will be selected to attend Harvard.

“It’s an independent study, and not only will I be studying math, but I will be reading philosophy on the side,” Dowdy said.

Because this is his first trip outside the U.S., Dowdy said he is anxious and a little nervous, “but excited about the opportunity that this presents.”

He will be in Oxford until July 2013.

“The school year is on a trimester system, and I will have some breaks where I hope to travel and enjoy England and the culture of the country,” he said. He also hopes his parents will have a chance to visit him in England.

“We’re very proud of him and excited for him,” his mother, Judy, said.

Dowdy admitted when he was a freshman at Waterloo he never imagined he would go to Oxford University to study.

“That shows how important determination and preparation is in education,” Stone said.

Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.


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