Recent high school grad prepares for Harvard nearly 10 years after losing her mom

Madison tragically lost her mother at eight years old, but the strength she found in the aftermath has led her all the way to Harvard.
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 12:49 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - With many students going back to school, one recent grad is packing her bags and heading to the Northeast to further her education.

Madison Echols transferred from Purvis High School to attend the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science ahead of her junior year. By the time she hit senior year, she had received several awards, scholarships and high recognition on a national level.

So once you graduate high school, the infamous follow-up question many have is, ‘What’s next?’

For Madison, it’s a question she’s eager to answer, considering the thousands of dollars in scholarship money and the laundry list of acceptance letters.

“By April 1, I had heard back from all my schools and found I’d been accepted into Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Vanderbilt, Emory and, of course, MSU, VCU and more state schools,” Madison said.

“Looking into the college process, I wanted a balance between resources and opportunity,” said...
“Looking into the college process, I wanted a balance between resources and opportunity,” said Madison Echols.(wdam)

After much thought, Madison decided to choose Harvard University as her home for the next four years. Although it’s roughly 21 hours away, it’s a decision Madison’s dad, David Echols, supports.

“Madison has always been a studious person,” said David. “She’s always been levelheaded, but this goes far beyond what I expected. I figured she would do good in school because that was just her mindset, but I really didn’t expect all this.”

While Madison isn’t the only student from the Pine Belt thriving in her academics, how she got here is what sets her apart.

“I was eight years old and my mother passed away due to liver complications and Crohn’s disease and just a number of different ailments that she was dealing with, and that was really, really hard for me,” Madison said.

Madison said she’s thankful for her dad and other family members, but the puzzle has always seemed incomplete without her mom, Tanya Echols.

As Madison grew older, she said losing her mom became her motivation to do her best.

“I had to accept within myself that something good potentially could come from something so bad,” Madison said. “I realized that if I didn’t learn anything from that tragedy, her death would’ve been in vain.”

Madison said, overall, she aspires to be a biostatistician and help improve healthcare disparities in African American communities.

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