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Dukes, Locklear named 2020 Early Assurance Scholars

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MacKenzie Dukes
MacKenzie Dukes

MacKenzie Dukes and Isabella Locklear have been selected as the 2020 Early Assurance Scholars at UNC Pembroke.

The incoming freshmen duo will be guaranteed a spot in East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, upon graduation.

The Early Assurance Program is a partnership between ECU Brody School of Medicine and UNC Pembroke. Two of the eighty seats in the entering 2024 class are reserved four years in advance for outstanding students interested in attending UNCP for their undergraduate studies.

The highly prestigious merit scholarship pays for tuition, fees, and books and assures the recipient’s entry into medical school, if he/she completes necessary GPA, participation and MCAT requirements. 

Dukes aspires to become a general surgeon. Locklear plans to pursue a career as a pediatrician. 

“I was ecstatic when I learned I was selected,” Locklear said. “The interview was very intimidating, but afterward I felt really good about it. When I found out, it was very reassuring of all the hard work I’ve put in.”

Locklear excelled in high school, graduating with a 4.7 GPA. She founded a multicultural interest organization, Mosaic, and was involved in various community outreach activities.

Personal family experiences have guided both Locklear and Dukes down a career path in medicine. The care her younger sister received after sustaining a serious head injury from a childhood accident provided Locklear with a deeper sense of appreciation for physicians.

“I’ve strongly admired pediatricians from that point on. Without them, my sister could have suffered something much worse. I want to be the person parents can look to for that same kind of care.”

Last summer, Locklear completed a six-week research internship at the Medical University of South Carolina, reconfirming her career choice.

Locklear, the daughter of Daryl and Dr. Jennifer Pickens Locklear, resides in Lumberton but calls Prospect home. Daryl, a UNCP grad, currently serves on the UNCP Board of Visitors.

Both students will major in biology with biomedical emphasis. Additionally, Locklear will pursue a minor in business management and will be joining the Maynor Honors College.

Dukes was equally humbled when she was notified that she was selected.

“It felt great. I’m extremely grateful. It made me feel good about myself as far as my morals and my values,” she said. “During the interview, I was sure to let the people at ECU know who I am and what I stand for. It feels great to know they saw something in me and would want to groom me and help me become the person I want to be.”

Her biggest inspiration growing up in Maxton was her grandmother, Sadie Epps Dukes. When she was in middle school, Sadie, a cancer survivor, fell ill after complications from multiple spinal surgeries.

“She passed away two years ago, but she suffered for years and that impacted me. I know how it feels to be the scared granddaughter in the waiting room not knowing if your loved one is going to make it. I want to be able to help families through life-changing surgeries and sickness.”

Dukes graduated with a 4.4 GPA and was a member of the Beta club, Student Advisory Association and vice president of NASA. She is the daughter of Ronald and Cheryl Dukes.

“I’m ecstatic to work with both of these stellar young women,” said Natayla F. Locklear, senior coordinator for the Health Careers Access Program (HCAP). “Their future is bright and I will be here to support their endeavors along the way. Congrats to both of them!”