THURSDAY, APRIL 16
To say that Oklahoma City University golfer Rayshon Payton is the epitome of a busy college student is an understatement.
The political science junior is an honor roll student carrying 16 hours of coursework and managing a long list of extra-curricular activities, an athlete who spends more time training and practicing on the golf course than he otherwise would at a part-time job and a volunteer who helps area youth understand the importance of character and education.
Payton’s commitment to community, advocacy and innovation was recently recognized by the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The New York City-based organization awarded its inaugural 2009 Nike Prize to Payton who met with Nike executives during spring break and took part in multiple leadership workshops and events.
Payton is a four-year Jackie Robinson scholar and received the highly-competitive Nike Prize in addition to the foundation award he received just before his freshman year.
“Being a Jackie Robinson scholar is very unique,” Payton said. “You receive mentors, career preparation, networking opportunities and connections who will help you throughout life. It’s more than just money.”
Jackie Robinson Foundation President Della Britton Baeza said foundation scholarships are distinguished for the depth and breadth of the accompanying mentoring program.
“Once we choose our scholars, we bring them into our program and we have a relationship with them through their college years and after,” she said.
Baeza said Payton’s accomplishments were inspiring.
“The prize goes not just to an athlete, but to someone who gives back to his community. Rayshon fit that description so profoundly,” she said. “He gives a lot of his time and energy to his community. He really does check every box with the way he approaches life.”
Payton volunteers with First Tee, a program he learned about first-hand as a youth participant. First Tee teaches youth about core character values through the game of golf.
“What I’ve come to love most about this is how everything is coming full circle,” he said. “I used to be one of those kids who didn’t know what integrity was, and now I get to see other kids grow like I did.”
Baeza said Payton is an excellent recipient of the first Nike Prize.
“Our mission is to inspire and promote all types of leadership,” she said. “Rayshon was just extraordinary. In the spirit of Jackie and Rachel Robinson, that’s exactly what we’re looking for.”