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Leadership award winner hopes her success helps others

ethena inez lighty stands on the horseshoe holding a large framed award

Ethena Inez Lighty has left her mark on the Carolina and Columbia communities through her dedication to leadership and service.

“My work has allowed for students like me to have more opportunities to see themselves in positions that they previously couldn't see themselves in and increase their own impact on this campus,” says Lighty.

Lighty is the recipient of the 2023 Steven N. Swanger Leadership Award for her contributions to the University of South Carolina that span various organizations and roles. The award is presented to a senior who has demonstrated major achievement in the categories of service, leadership, academics and research. 

The Columbia native has been heavily involved on campus from being co-founder and president of the Black Capstone Caucus to president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Additionally, Lighty is a member of the Multicultural Assistance Peer Program, Student Life Advisory Group and Inclusive Excellence Student Advisory Council. 

“I have displayed vertical and horizontal leadership by serving on executive boards to numerous student organizations and having the privilege to serve as president of my sorority,” says Lighty. “I have served on advisory boards and groups to ensure that students' wants and needs are being addressed.”

In the Columbia community, she established a service partnership with Harvest Hope Food Bank that allows sorority members to volunteer their time. She has also worked with the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy to reduce illiteracy rates in communities across the state. In addition to volunteering at the Salvation Army, she led a service project at the charity during the Capstone Scholars Day of Service in the fall of 2020. 

Lighty, a first-generation college student, is earning her bachelor’s degree in information science and expects to graduate with honors and leadership distinction in professional and civic engagement. 

She hopes that her success at USC shows others how they “can create a path of their own."