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Advocate for Others: ACT Scholar Strives for Equitable Health Care

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. Eva Smith is a first-generation Filipino-American student at Kirkwood Community College pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing with plans to graduate this spring.

Who was your motivation for going to college?

My grandmother was my largest motivation for going to college and pursuing nursing. She was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer in 2021. Throughout the process of diagnosing, treating her cancer, and hospice care, all of my grandmother’s nurses were phenomenal. My grandmother has always supported and inspired me throughout my college journey. She was always interested in hearing about everything I was learning.

What are you studying? What degree do you hope to earn?

I am currently studying nursing. After graduating Kirkwood with my associate’s in nursing this spring, I plan to pursue a Bachelor of Science in nursing and Master of Science in nursing from the University of Iowa.

Why did you select this area of study?

I chose nursing because I have always felt such fascination with all aspects of the human body and immense compassion for those in need. Throughout my life, I have learned about the health inequities among people of color, people with low socioeconomic status, and those in the LGBTQ+ community. Although I am only one person, I plan to facilitate change, advocate for, and promote higher quality of care for these vulnerable populations.

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

The biggest challenge I have faced as a college student is finding a good school-work-life balance. I tend to overwork myself both in school and my job, leaving little time to relax and enjoy life. I just remind myself that if I can’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of others once I’m a nurse.

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

Be gentle with yourself. I think it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the expectation to be perfect, especially being a first-generation college student. Life is hard and you can do hard things, but remember to take care of yourself, too.

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

My current goal is to graduate from Kirkwood and to pass my National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses exam! After I graduate, I plan to keep studying until my nursing board exams.

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

The ACT scholarship means that people believe in my abilities to succeed! It has provided me with the opportunity to focus more on school and less on worrying about making enough money to pay for rent, tuition, and food.