The 31st annual South Carolina State University Foundation Scholarship Gala & Tribute will honor six “Shining Stars” in the student body on Saturday, March 5.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. in Smith Hammond Middleton Memorial Center. The evening will be hosted by radio and television personality Ashlei Stevens.

Tickets for the in-person event are sold out with a waiting list, but the festivities will be streamed online exclusively to virtual ticketholders at $99 each. The foundation also continues to accept sponsorships. This annual event is the SC State Foundation’s major fundraiser and supports scholarships at the university.

To purchase tickets and sponsorship packages, visit

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This year’s Shining Stars are Marquez L. Wortham, College of Agriculture, Family, and Consumer Sciences; Alexandrea Brice Moore, College of Business and Information Systems; Gabriel D. Nkhata, College of Education, Humanities & Social Sciences; Jessica G. Outlaw, Dr. Emily England Clyburn Honors College; Faith A. Polite, College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Transportation; and the late Shemyia T. Riley, College of Graduate and Professional Studies.

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Riley was killed in a tragic car accident on Feb. 25. A family representative has been invited to accept the award on her behalf.

The 2022 Shining Stars

Marquez L. Wortham

Sophomore nutrition major Marquez Wortham is a native of Decatur, Georgia. He came to SC State to gain the knowledge and experience needed to expand his horizons in nutritional and agricultural sciences.

While working at Good Samaritan Health Center of Atlanta’s Urban farm, Marquez was given the opportunity as an AmeriCorps member to coordinate such communal programs as farm-to-table school gardening, nutrition programs with Metro Atlanta schools and homegrown raised garden bed workshops. At that farm he gained tons of knowledge and fell in love with agriculture. That experience led him to dedicate his life to the education, literacy, and advocacy of agriculture, nutritional sciences, food science, meat science and horticulture. In January of 2020, Marquez and his wife moved from Atlanta to Orangeburg so he could pursue a degree in agriculture.

At SC State, Marquez is historian of the MANNRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences) organization and a member of several other organizations.

Marquez feels “truly honored to be a Shining Star because hard work and dedication are pillars of this reward. As a non-traditional student being married, I have had some very challenging times, but knowing and living in my purpose helps me persevere and keeps me motivated.”

Alexandrea Brice Moore

Sophomore accounting major Alexandrea Brice Moore is a native of Spartanburg. Coming from the Upstate, she knew that SC State University would provide her with a unique experience compared to those of her classmates. She fell in love with SC State in one day. And now after spending three years here, she is more grateful than ever for the opportunities and love she has received from her illustrious university.

Alexandrea has participated in many seminars and internships that have helped her further her professional career and increased SC State’s outreach. Along with being a standout student and avid learner, she is a student leader at South Carolina State and advocate to her peers. She serves as the 2021-2022 Miss Junior on the Royal Court, as well as the chair of marketing for the SC State Chapter of the National Association for Black Accountants (NABA). She also is a member of the D.O.L.L.S. service organization on campus.

Alexandrea works to spread SC State’s influence in the community by attending networking events in the upstate area and volunteering as a tutor at local middle schools. She believes that “If you pour into yourself and put effort into positively influencing the lives of those around you, the things you work hard for will come to you.” She also studies factors of community development and real estate with goals of solving housing issues related to race disparities in South Carolina and beyond.

Upon graduation, Alexandrea plans to further her education and work for a big five-tech company. She also plans to continue working in real estate, eventually leaving her mark in Orangeburg County. Being chosen to represent her university as a Shining Star is a great honor. It is an embodiment of the legacy she wishes to leave behind at SC State University.

Gabriel D. Nkhata

Senior music education major Gabriel D. Nkhata is a native of Orangeburg. He is a tenacious advocate for the advancement of music throughout America and scholar with Bulldog Tenacity. He chose SC State because his mother, Charlene Nkhata, is an alumnus and he knew of no better institution to pursue his music studies. Gabriel has a passion for speaking life into others and uplifting those around him. He is studious in his academic affairs, as well.

Gabriel is a proud member of the Marching 101 Band and is thoroughly involved around campus being a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America Inc. He has received numerous scholarships, including the Rudolph Canzater Scholarship from the James E. Clyburn Scholarship and Research Foundation, the Judith Sexton Walls Scholarship, the Dick Horne Foundation Scholarship, and other academic honors. Throughout his musical career he has been selected to play at multiple regional and all-state band clinics, received a superior rating for solo and ensemble and jazz/solo performances from the South Carolina Band Directors Association’s Music Festival at Newberry College, a Palmetto Boys State band member and more.

Gabriel says, “It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. God has made us uniquely and intricately to overcome any obstacle, and that through faith and persistence, we can do all things through Him that strengthens us. We are all perfectly imperfect, and that is what makes life beautiful. If we all commit to loving each other unconditionally, the world would be changed like never before.” Gabriel is honored to be a 2022 Shining Star, an honor he will never forget.

After graduation, Gabriel plans to obtain his master’s degree in music education. He aspires to positively impact the lives of students, transform the learning environment, and bridge the gap through the power of music and transformative teaching. He also aspires to be a role model for individuals who need a positive male figure to look up to so that they, too, will become transformed in their own lives.

Jessica G. Outlaw

Graduating senior accounting major Jessica G. L. Outlaw is a native of Florence. She chose SC State to change her life for the better within an HBCU family-orientated environment. As a Presidential Scholar at the Dr. Emily England Clyburn Honors College, she has earned a cumulative GPA of 4.0.

Throughout her matriculation at SC State, she has participated in various leadership positions. Currently, Jessica serves as 2021-2022 Miss Dr. Emily England Clyburn Honors College, treasurer of Alpha Xi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., chapter coordinator of the SC State Chapter of National Association of Black Accountants, and vice president of Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Honors Society. Jessica also has completed internships within professional services, government, and banking. In her free time, she gives professional help to her peers by assisting with their resumes and LinkedIn.

Jessica is honored to receive the Shining Star distinction. She believes this award is truly an honor and symbolizes how circumstances do not determine one’s future. She hopes to “impact at least one peer at this illustrious institution during her four years of college”.

After graduation, Jessica will complete an internship at a big tech company and begin her Master of Accountancy degree at a historically black university.

Faith A. Polite

Junior mechanical engineering technology major Faith A. Polite is a native of Charleston. She chose to attend SC State because of its excellent engineering program. She has had many wonderful experiences since enrolled at SC State. One of the experiences she has enjoyed the most is the support she received from the Engineering Department, including its professors and her peers.

Faith has received the Presidential Scholar Award for her academic integrity and is a Dr. Emily England Clyburn Honors College Scholar. She is very appreciative of the support provided to her by the Honors College staff. She is honored to be selected as a Shining Star and firmly believes that “through hard work and perseverance, you can accomplish your goals”.

After graduation, Faith plans to pursue a master’s degree in engineering. She aspires to work against climate change and develop new methods of green energy.

Shemyia T. Riley

Junior social work major Shemyia T. Riley was a native of Greenville. Growing up as one of a few African Americans in her classes was one of many reasons why she should further her education at a Historically Black College or University to be around more of her culture. While visiting SC State during a Bulldog Ready Workshop Day for incoming students in 2019, everyone treated her as if she was already family. This made her realize that this was the illustrious university for her. Since education and a successful career have always been her focus, she planned to earn her college degree to help achieve dreams and goals as a first-generation college student.

Shemyia was a Dr. Emily E. Clyburn Honors College student who received multiple presidential scholar awards. She was an active Student Orientation Leader engaging and welcoming first-year students and transfers into the college environment. The Honors College allowed her to experience giving back to the community and meeting a variety of like-minded, phenomenal individuals. This opportunity opened her heart even more to help build Bulldog tenacity among fellow students. Lifting others and spreading love were what she liked doing.

“I am delighted to have been chosen as a Shining Star Scholar for this 2022 academic year. I thank God, my angels, parents, family, friends, and professors for motivation and love. I am thankful that I am achieving as I overcome the odds. I wish to leave my mark on the Bulldog Family or any individual by encouraging others to set goals and never give up,” Shemyia said.

Shemyia planned to earn a masters’ degree in social work and one day own a counseling service counsels= children, families, and married couples. Another of Shemyia’s goals was to become a motivational speaker and author several books to inspire others.

About Ashlei Stevens

A news reporter-turned-communications guru, Ashlei Stevens has more than 15 years of media experience spanning government to non-profits to television and radio. Whether it’s speaking about government affairs on national news, discussing the latest HBCU news on her web series, engaging a crowd as an exciting event emcee, or empowering teens as they struggle with self-confidence, the one constant theme is Ashlei’s unmistakable voice. And she uses her voice to inform, inspire, and empower. $5.99 for the first month

You may have also seen Ashlei on TV One’s top-rated show, “Fatal Attraction,” of which she’s offered commentary on criminal cases for the past six seasons. She’s also appeared on CNN, Oxygen, ID and the Weather Channel, after hosting several entertainment talk shows across New York City. And in case her voice sounds familiar, Ashlei lends her talents to businesses and brands as a voice artist, event emcee and motivational youth speaker.

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