By Beth Marsh, Director of ACCESS
In our normal life, we would have been celebrating our ACCESS graduates tonight. We would have toasted the seniors, given them medallions to wear at graduation, and let them reflect on what their time at Appalachian has meant to them. Part of that celebration would have included the awarding of our Spirit of ACCESS Award. The Kenneth E. Peacock Spirit of ACCESS Award goes to someone who embodies what ACCESS was created to do. The award recipient is someone who really needed this opportunity, took full advantage of their time at ASU, and has great forward momentum as they leave Appalachian. In addition to a special medallion meant to be worn at graduation, the 2020 Spirit of ACCESS Award recipient will receive a monetary award to support their efforts as they pursue the next chapter in their lives.
This year's recipient is Alyssa Rodriguez. Alyssa is graduating in May with a degree in Political Science: Public Administration and minors in both Business and Leadership Studies. Looking back to when she learned she was a recipient of the ACCESS scholarship, she wrote, "This “Congratulations” package offered me an opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve something that I had never seen so clearly for myself before. This package was my ticket to a future that I had not even had the opportunity to dream of. I knew that no matter how my path changed, I would have those four years at Appalachian; to find myself, to decide my future, and to learn and grow along the way. This opportunity was (and is) unreal to me and I could not believe that I would be among those privileged enough to experience it."
Alyssa writes, "As a first generation college student, an ACCESS scholar, and a young Latinx woman, this experience has been difficult, confusing, and discouraging at times. When I first came into college I didn't know how anything worked and neither did my family. I felt virtually on my own, alone, and scared. Entering new and uncomfortable territory is scary, but I soon realized all of the resources I had around me and began to craft the best experience that I could."
Alyssa found community and leadership opportunities through the Residence Hall Association eventually serving as Vice President of the RHA Executive Board. Her 2nd year, she joined the Student Government Association as the Director of Communications in the Milbourne-Kelly Executive Cabinet. This year she has served as the Chief of Staff of the Milbourne-Davis Cabinet. She was nominated and chosen to be a part of ASU's Homecoming court this past year as well. Through her work-study job in University Communications, she became involved in Democracy North Carolina and served as the Communications Fellow. Alyssa mentions campus mentors and her leadership studies minor as valuable impacts on her leadership journey that ultimately led to her decision to continue her education with a Master’s degree here at Appalachian in Student Affairs Administration starting this fall. Alyssa made the most of her ACCESS Scholarship. Not only did she further her education, but she sought out community for herself and found ways to get immersed in those communities and serve to her fullest capacity. In her words, “Throughout my years here, I have learned strengths and weaknesses that I never would have identified otherwise. Appalachian has allowed me to develop into the person I am today. I have learned not only what kind of person I am, but what kind of leader I want to be.”
Read Alyssa's winning essay here: https://docs.google.com/…/1KRz_8Zk0NF_E7A-tjKRhMHO6Tts…/edit
About the ACCESS Scholarship Program
Appalachian State University is committed to making higher education affordable for every North Carolina student and developed the Appalachian Commitment to a College Education for Student Success (ACCESS) Scholarship Program as a method to ensure that first-year students from low-income families in North Carolina can attend Appalachian debt free. Along with financial assistance, the ACCESS program offers recipients a comprehensive program of academic and personal support that includes orientation and academic advising, mentorship and professional development opportunities. The scholarship supplements federal financial aid grants, state grants, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance. Learn more at https://studentlearningcenter.appstate.edu/access.
About University College
Formed in 2007, University College consists of the university’s general education program, faculty and student support, and co-curricular programming and support – all designed to support the work of students both inside and outside the classroom. All students at Appalachian begin their education in University College and benefit from its programs until they graduate. Learn more at https://universitycollege.appstate.edu.