Jaida Lawrence, a member of the WVU Gymnastics Team and graduating senior from the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, won the 2016 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholarship Award for her outstanding achievements in academics, athletics and community service. She is the only gymnast in the country to be nominated for the award. Lawrence’s other awards include, Deans List, Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, and Garret Ford Academic Honor Roll.
“It is a great feeling to be represented for a black athletic award,” Jaida says, “and I am happy that I was able to give WVU some recognition!”
A native of Rocky Hill, Connecticut, Jaida made her first visit to WVU as a sophomore in high school. She ultimately decided to attend the University when she was offered a full athletic scholarship to join the WVU Gymnastics team. Lawrence joined the Mountaineer gymnastics team in 2013 where she was the first Mountaineer named to the All-Big 12 Gymnastics Team for vault. During her freshman year she earned eight podium places on vault and scored below a 9.85 only twice. She was NACGC/W Scholastic All-American and part of the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team. Lawrence placed first on vault for the first time during her freshman year against NC State. After that she placed first on vault against Oklahoma, Denver, and George Washington.
Jaida has been a gymnast for as long as she can remember.
“My mom always thought I was hyper, flexible and strong as a child,” Jaida says. “As an eight-month old baby, my mother said that I was able to get out of my crib myself and crawl all the way into her bedroom. She was completely blown away because at eight months I was able to hold my own body weight and flip over my crib.”
Jaida was 2 years old when her mother put her in her first gymnastics class. Since that day, she has never stopped attending. Jaida has been a gymnast for about 20 years, which she remarks is 90 percent of her lifetime.
Jaida will graduate with a degree in speech pathology and audiology. After earning her bachelor’s, she plans to attend Southern Connecticut State University to pursue her master’s degree in communication disorders and become a licensed speech language pathologist.
“I love the idea of communication and being able to share feelings with other people,” Jaida says. “I chose speech language pathology because I want to be able to help people who have speech impediments get better or help these people find ways to most effectively communicate.”
Although juggling gymnastics and college has been difficult, Jaida has been able to adjust to her hectic lifestyle, and she now considers herself to have great discipline and time management skills. It’s no wonder, considering for the past four years she has managed to practice 20 hours a week with the team while maintaining a social life and a high GPA. Despite the extra work involved, Jaida says that being a student athlete has changed her life for the better.