Junior biochemistry major Madison Meeks was one of three students selected to ask U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris a question during her visit to the College of Charleston on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.
“The opportunity to meet and witness Vice President Kamala Harris on campus was surreal. To be afforded the opportunity to meet such a trailblazing Black woman and my sorority sister was heartwarming,” says Meeks, an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Leadership Fellow. “I am grateful to have been able to ask her a question regarding voting rights, which is an issue I am passionate about. Her words of encouragement and empowerment reinvigorated the fiery passion for social justice and civic engagement for me. I left her presence feeling enriched, empowered and emboldened. I’m a better person for it.”
As the oldest daughter of four girls, Meeks sets high expectations for herself and says she is a lifelong learner. Drawn to STEM classes from a young age, she dreamed of becoming an OB-GYN or an endocrinologist, or working in emergency medicine. When it was time to begin researching colleges, she focused her attention on pre-med programs at historically Black colleges and universities. The College of Charleston was not on her radar until an admissions counselor visited her high school and told her about the College’s opportunities for research, proximity to the Medical University of South Carolina and state-of-the-art facilities within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The admissions counselor stayed in touch with Meeks and recommended she apply to the College’s Senior Project, a weeklong summer college preparatory program serving AALANA and first-generation students.
Madison Meeks (Photo by Mike Ledford)
“Unfortunately, COVID hit that spring, and Senior Project was held over Zoom, but I still was able to form relationships with the admissions counselors. The experience made a difference when it was time to make my decision,” says Meeks, who was accepted to the College and was offered a position into the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s EMSAP (Early Medical School Acceptance Program), which would have guaranteed her a spot in UAB’s medical school upon graduation and completing program requirements. The decision came down to personal contact.
“It meant the absolute world to me that people from CofC emailed me almost every day,” says Meeks, adding that Elizabeth Meyer-Bernstein, dean of the Honors College, was in touch with her about the Honors College, and Valerie Frazier ’91 (M.P.A. ’94), associate professor of English and director of the 1967 Legacy Program, talked to her about the 1967 Legacy Scholars.
“When you meet her, you know there’s something magical about Madison Meeks,” says Frazier, adding that Meeks is also a recipient of the Carrie Kilgore Endowed Scholarship, which provides Legacy Scholars with financial and emotional support. “She is the embodiment of what it means to be a Legacy Scholar: laser focused on her studies, articulate, thoughtful beyond measure and driven by her commitment to making the world a better place. Perhaps not surprisingly, Madison lends a helping hand to all whom she meets, without reservation. She is a natural born leader, and over the last two years, she has become a change agent and campus leader.”
It’s no wonder that in addition to the Jack Mansure Memorial Endowed Scholarship, the Draisin Family Endowed Scholarship, the R.I.S.E. Endowed Scholarship and the Franklin Barker West Memorial Endowed Scholarship, Meeks recently received the George P. Watt, Jr. Endowed Scholarship, which supports student leaders at the College. The president of the CofC National Panhellenic Council is also part of the College’s SCAMP (South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation) program and a member of the CofC chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma, the Honors College’s Charleston Fellows program and the Bonner Leader Program.
“Nothing has compared to the way I’m challenged and the way I’ve become more conscious of being civically engaged as a Bonner Leader,” says Meeks, who grew up in the Mississippi Delta, a place where many efforts for the civil rights movement were birthed. “I grew up playing at Broad Street Park, the place where Stokely Carmichael first said the empowering phrase ‘Black power.’ Being in Charleston and understanding the importance of this place as a part of my history has been transformative. As a Bonner Leader, I’ve learned how to embrace that history and empower change while reanalyzing how language, place and lived experiences affect our daily lives.”
Meeks is also making an impact on a national level, serving her sorority not just as a Leadership Fellow, but as an undergraduate cluster coordinator and as the treasurer, advocate for social justice chairman and fundraising chair of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. – Iota Omicron. The sorority was founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1908 and is the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African American college-educated women. Meeks’ contributions to the sorority have been so remarkable that she was offered the opportunity to go to San Diego to connect with her sorority’s prominent leaders and other undergraduates.
“Service to all mankind is our mantra,” she says. “We’ve been working tirelessly to ensure that we are providing communities for everyone to have candid conversations, form connections, encourage collaborations and have a good time. It’s my desire to inspire and enact change as best as I can.”