A future in clinical psychology
Donicia Blanton was offered a full scholarship to Smith College in her home state
of Massachusetts, but when she visited LaGrange College during Presidential Scholars
Weekend, she was drawn in by the Southern hospitality, the beauty of the campus
and the quality of its science programs.
“Originally I really wanted to get away from the snow,” says the double major
in biology and psychology. “It’s a 20- to 26-hour drive from my home in Massachusetts
to Georgia. When I visited here, I had a couple of schools in mind, not just LaGrange,
and I really wasn’t familiar with the culture of the South. But when I visited
it for the scholarship competition, my first thought was, ‘I love this place.’
It just sucked me in and shot up to my No. 1 choice.”
Three years later, the junior is not ready to leave.
“It’s kind of sad to think that I will be graduating pretty soon,” she says. “I
really love LaGrange College because it has really given me the chance to take
advantage of so many things that have enhanced my education. For instance, I never
thought I’d be wearing a lab coat as an undergrad and researching protein in cancerous
and non-cancerous cells.”
Donicia says she loves not only how her studies differ between the areas of psychology
and biology but also enjoys the “a-ha” moments when the two come together, which
is why she plans to continue her studies by earning a doctoral degree in psychology
to specialize in in-patient clinical psychology. She currently is president of
Psi Chi, the college’s psychology honor society, and has had some of her research
“The professors here really teach you to think,” she says. “They don’t hand things
to you; they don’t spoon-feed you. It’s a challenge sometimes, but once you overcome
that challenge, it’s so satisfying. It’s worth it to really be able to step up
and meet the challenges of your professors.”
Donicia considered pursuing her love of dance before she committed to college,
as she has practiced jazz, ballet, modern, hip-hop, liturgical and African dance
for 13 years. She toured nationwide in a dance troupe as early as 14 years old
and also danced with the Dance Theater of Harlem. She also was invited to tour
At LaGrange College, Donicia was chosen as one of 12 junior Servant Scholars,
who each engage in a year-long internship with a local non-profit agency as part
of their service-learning experience. Donicia serves the Boys and Girls Club of
West Georgia, where she initiated a dance team last fall for young girls.
“I feel like the program doesn’t just teach the girls how to dance,” she says.
“It’s been tailored to help teach them responsibility, how to be prepared, how
to step up and better themselves. They’re taught to show up on time, to bring their
water bottle and to come with their dance clothes, and if they don’t do those things,
they can’t participate for the day. It’s not an effort to be mean, but an effort
to teach them how to commit to things, which is a lesson they may not happen to
get in the environment they live in.”
Donicia says she has enjoyed seeing the girls grow through the dance experience.
“When they first started and didn’t come prepared, they might just shrug it off
and blame someone else,” she says. “But now they realize the consequences of not
coming in or not being prepared; they take it upon themselves and apologize and
promise to do better. And the next day they come in definitely prepared, even a
little bit early sometimes.”
Another Servant Scholar, Alex Rodriguez, began teaching violin and music theory
at the Boys and Girls Club when Donicia began the dance program.
“We’re both taking aspects of the arts to the Boys and Girls Club,” she says.
“We feel like the kids aren’t just getting a new hobby. They’re getting a taste
of culture early in life. Even if they don’t want to become a professional violinist
of dancer, it gives them something worthwhile to do, sometime to look forward to
and something to be proud of.”
Donicia knows where the children have come from, as she was once a member of the
Boys and Girls Club herself as a young child.
“I just hope I bring a bit of positivity to their lives because I know firsthand
how much that means to them,” she says. “I went to the Boys and Girls Club when
I was young, and I just remember feeling like people didn’t care, that people were
giving up on me. It’s important for these girls to see that people care about them
and want to spend their time showing them a new skill and not overlooking them.”
Donicia hopes she can continue to be that message of hope in her future career.
“I don’t want to do research in clinical psychology; I want the person-to-person
interaction,” she says. “I want to use what I’m applying here at LaGrange, especially
in the Servant Scholars program: to look beyond self and use your gifts and tools
to make a difference in people’s lives. Even if it’s not that many people, those
small differences in just a few people’s lives can culminate into something bigger.”