Prestigious Payne Fellowship will enable First Tee alumna Karrington Knight to help others 

Karrington Knight has been interested in global politics since middle school. Now she’s getting ready to embark on a career that could take her all over the world. 

An alumna of First Tee – Greater New Orleans, Knight recently received the competitive Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship that will facilitate a career with the U.S. Agency for International Development, which aims to reduce poverty and promote democracy abroad. 

Knight graduated last year from Rhodes College in Memphis, where she was a team captain of the golf team. She’s heading to the nation’s capital this fall for graduate school, where she’ll study international affairs with a concentration in democracy and government. Through the Fellowship, she’ll also spend one summer working at a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and another at a U.S. embassy abroad. Then she’ll spend at least five years in the USAID foreign service after graduation. 

“In high school and in college I was able to have teachers and professors foster that passion of mine,” Knight said. “Now I’ve found exactly what I want to do. I’ll be able to go to South America and work in politics and with indigenous populations. It’s everything I’ve wanted all wrapped into one.” 

As an undergraduate student, Knight minored in Spanish and wrote a thesis on indigenous political parties in Bolivia and Guatemala. She’s looking forward to working on the continent – especially after the COVID-19 pandemic dashed her plans to study abroad in 2020. And that’s not the only change she’s experienced in the last few years. 

“My original plan was to attend law school after graduating, but something just didn’t feel right,” Knight explained. “I think a big part of planning is allowing yourself to take a step back and reevaluate your goals.”  

One thing that’s for sure is golf will continue to play a role in Knight’s life. “It’s growing all over the world,” she said. “I would love to integrate golf into international development. There’s so much you can learn from golf, and it can bring people together.” 

Knight first got into the sport when she was young and would ride in the cart with her dad. “He’d let me sit in his lap to drive,” she recalled. “After always going out with him, my parents put me in First Tee just to see if I’d take to it, and the rest is history.” 

She’s still connected with First Tee – Greater New Orleans as chair of the chapter’s alumni committee. “I think it’s important to stay involved because First Tee gave me such a great foundation, not only for golf but just as a person,” she said. “Especially for Black girls, it’s important for them to see that golf might not be a very popular sport right now but it can be rewarding in the long run.” 

As committee chair, Knight keeps in contact with other First Tee – Greater New Orleans alumni and serves as a liaison between them and the chapter. She also helps the chapter find alumni to speak at classes and events. 

She’s happy to give back to the organization, she said. “First Tee has nurtured me at every stage of my life. It’s something where a lot of other youth organizations fall short. I just praise First Tee so much for seeing who I was as an individual and catering to what I needed at each stage of my life,” she said.