De'Airra Drayton Tilley poses next to a flowering tree on Schuylkill campus

Character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship — Attributes of a student standout

Recognizing achievement and leadership
By: Susan C. Andrews

Penn State Schuylkill held its annual Campus Involvement and Leadership Awards Ceremony on April 18. Ten awards were given in recognition of student achievement and excellence in academics, participation, service and leadership. All annual awards originate from the Schuylkill campus with one exception: The Eric and Josephine S. Walker Award, which is a Penn State University recognition.

The awardees were determined by an impartial panel of judges at Florida Gulf Coast University who selected the awardees based on established criteria.

De’Airra Drayton, a 2017 graduate and psychology major, was selected as this year’s recipient of the prestigious Eric and Josephine S. Walker Award. The award is given to one student at each University College location whose outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship have been directed into programs and services that have positively influenced fellow students and have contributed to the prestige and well-being of her campus and, hence, to the reputation of the University as a whole.

Character, Scholarship, Leadership and Citizenship—these are inarguably outstanding qualities. Add to these attributes boundless energy, enthusiasm, and an ability to bring people together and you have De’Airra Drayton.

With high praise for Drayton, Bryan Valentine, director of student affairs and enrollment services on the Schuylkill campus, said, “She embodies the qualities required of an Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award winner.”  He continued, “Throughout her time at Penn State Schuylkill, Ms. Drayton has shown outstanding character, excelled in the classroom, and exemplified great leadership as both a Resident Assistant and as president of the Black Student Union.”

Philadelphia is home to Drayton, who changed course from her initial plans to become a physician’s assistant after her first two classes in psychology. Also a big fan of “Law & Order” and “Criminal Minds,” Drayton is drawn to the field of abnormal psychology.

Drayton excelled in her classes and had a schedule so busy that she makes you feel as if you are standing still as she lists her collegiate activities. She was a Residence Assistant in the Nittany Lion IV apartments, a dance team member, a cheerleader and president of the Black Student Union. In the latter capacity, she brought people together from across campus and began round table discussions about politics and real-world issues.

In addition to her involvement on campus, Drayton participated in last year’s alternative spring break to Montreal. “I enjoyed my first trip outside of the U.S. and helping people move forward by being part of the Habitat for Humanity home construction team,” she said.

Drayton has volunteered and worked at daycare centers since the age of 12. “Once I decided that psychology would be my major, I thought that my dream job would be a school psychologist,” she said, “but soon I found out that the best place for me was a classroom with pre-school to second grade kids.”

Some parting words from Drayton as she leaves behind her alma mater and a beloved cadre of friends: “I have really enjoyed my time at Penn State Schuylkill,” Drayton said. “I will miss the family-oriented environment and will always stay in touch with the great friends I made here.”