Isáilah Edwards Mervil, a 2020 graduate of Ray Braswell High School, has her sights set on a career as an oral surgeon, and she’s already working toward that goal with focus and determination. A student at Collin County College in Frisco, she’s getting her start by working toward becoming a dental hygienist.
Even before her college courses began, she completed a program online to get her dental assistant certificate, and, “once I become a dental hygienist, hopefully I can get into the office to learn more about oral surgery, and that’s where I want to stay.”
Her clear goals, confidence and determination, along with her desire to help others discover and pursue their passions, all contributed to her recent award of an Opportunity Rising foundation scholarship.
Her career choice was confirmed when she was a winning contestant for a 97.9 The Beat radio opportunity for girls to experience the field they want to go into. The contest was sponsored by Lil D On Air, who Isailah follows on Instagram.
Isáilah shadowed Dr. Porchia James in the About Face Oral Surgery office in Frisco, an experience she can revisit anytime on YouTube. “And I loved it; I took a lot of pictures and video, and I learned a lot of things. That’s how I knew I wanted to be in that field.”
She knew about the Opportunity Rising scholarships as her brother, Matthew Edwards, entered the year before and won a scholarship that helped him with buy books and cover fees for classes, and wanted to pursue the same opportunity.
“We had a rough time getting to where we are today,” Isáilah says. “We were homeless. We were living with my mom’s friends, we were living with family. We were bouncing from house to house, shelter to shelter. It was unstable for us. And then one day my mom, she put in to get some help. With her taking the initiative to reach out for help and to say, ‘I can’t do this on my own’ … that’s one thing I really appreciate, that my mom wasn’t afraid to ask for help.
“So once she got help, we started receiving a lot of blessings. … Often when people get help they stay in the poverty areas, but she moved us into a better area where we could get the best education. And that’s when we started to get better.”
An active leader at Ray Braswell High, Isáilah was captain of the step team from 2018-2020, threw shot put and discus on the track team, and was President of the Black Student Union and President of the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) her senior year.
She helped with blood drives and other community projects, and she and her mom volunteer together at the Shepherd’s Storehouse food pantry.
Finding meaning in helping others, Isailah is excited to embrace her chosen field early so she can do for other students what Lil D did for her. “I want to be able to help people and help them find the path that’s right for them, for their personality and passions.”
Her advice to other potential foundation scholars is to look the part. Wear a suit and understand that your appearance matters. “You can’t have the mindset that you have it all together and not look the part.”
Looking the part also involves building confidence. “Confidence is the key; if you don’t have confidence, you will not get anywhere. Don’t limit yourself by not believing in yourself.”
At Collin County Community College, she’s focused on getting good grades in algebra, English and her other classes. She also continues to pursue her interest in the arts through dance classes and has already talked with friends about developing a step team at the college.
“Without the help that comes from DHA, and not only the scholarship, we wouldn’t really be as far as we are now. And with that being said, it’s just a big thanks to them. It’s a blessing. So I like to use everything they’ve given us and run with it because not everyone gets that opportunity.”