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‘Be Part of the Solution’

ACT established the ACT Scholars program to nurture the academic talent of graduate and community college students at the University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College, respectively. ACT emphasized scholarships for students from populations for which the cost of higher education could have presented a significant barrier to college access and accomplishments.

To commemorate their journeys from application to graduation, ACT has invited these scholars to share their stories. Eyliah Smith-Davis is a Kirkwood Community College student pursuing an associate of applied science degree with a focus in human services. She hopes to continue her education journey after graduation and one day earn a master’s in applied psychology to pursue a career in children’s behavioral psychology.

What was your motivation for going to college? 

My father was my inspiration; he worked so hard for us to succeed. I don’t want that struggle to be in vain. He worked so hard for us that his health declined, and he eventually passed before my little sister graduated high school.

What goals have you set for yourself? How do you plan to achieve them? 

I eventually want to become a behavioral psychologist and work with children who have experienced trauma. I would like experience in human services while working on a master's to achieve that goal. I plan to continue my education with scholarships and work, and to apply for internships and work in the field as soon as my education allows. 

Why did you select this area of study?  

I have always been interested in helping people with their mental health. Many of my close friends and I struggled significantly with our mental health and didn’t understand how to handle our emotions when something terrible happened. I want to be part of the solution for the children in my community because I know we can do better for them. Doing better for our communities’ children will, in turn, make our society better and stronger while helping future generations.

Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey? 

My father inspired me to do something with the potential that I didn’t even know I had. My mother is very excited about me finally continuing my educational journey and she helps encourage me when things get complicated.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a college student and how are you working to overcome it? 

My mother just turned 52 years old and is still paying off a degree she doesn’t use. I was terrified of returning to school and wasting money on something I would never use. One of my biggest challenges was deciding what I wanted for my career and how to pay for it. I started to work two jobs to pay for school loans so that I wouldn’t be buried under loans.

What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?  

Scholarships, Scholarships, Scholarships! You won’t get help if you don’t apply. I would give any student or person considering continuing their education the advice to apply for scholarships. I would also advise them to make their education count daily. Education is expensive, and not everyone gets the chance to further theirs, so do your best to learn as much as possible. Education can help make you a well-rounded individual and aid in your life every day; not everyone will take advantage.

What does the ACT scholarship mean to you? How does it affect your education journey? 

This scholarship means the world to me. I started going to school as a part-time student – because I used what my Pell Grant would allow me – to work two jobs and graduate with minimal debt. This scholarship means I can return to being a full-time student and quit one of my jobs to focus on my GPA and future. I am willing to do whatever it takes to achieve my dream, and this scholarship means I don’t have to be as tired – I can spend more time with the people I love.