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‘I Am My Own Cheerleader’

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 whom 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. Samantha Blackwell graduated in May from Kirkwood Community College, earning her Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts. Following her graduation, she plans to pursue her Bachelor of Arts degree in sports management.

Who or what was your motivation for going to college?

My motivation for going to college is my father. My father always encouraged me to go to college and study computers. Although I am not studying computers, I think that if my dad were still alive, he would be happy knowing that I am in college.

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

I am pursuing a Liberal Arts degree. I chose to pursue a Liberal Arts degree because I wanted to discover what my passion truly was. This has been a journey of self-discovery for me.

Why did you select this area of study?

I have always been talented at many different things. I was unclear about what career path I would take in the beginning of my college career. Pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts allowed me the opportunity to take a variety of courses so I could figure out what my future would look like after graduating.

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

I would say that I have been my biggest supporter. Today there is a narrative that “you don’t need college to be successful,” and this is what I often hear from the people around me. There is also the ongoing conversation about student debt, cancellation, and forgiveness. Many people encouraged me to avoid college to avoid having a future that leaves me in debt and without real opportunities. Getting through college has been a real challenge because I am my own cheerleader.

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

The biggest challenge has been supporting myself financially while trying to dedicate the time necessary to receive my education. I worry that one of these areas will suffer, and the stress and pressure can be overwhelming at times. I have yet to overcome this, but I do continue to make an effort.

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

Surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals. This can be difficult if you are taking classes online but even in the career field that you have chosen, find a community that supports your future aspirations and helps you to develop.

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

I set a goal for myself to get an internship for next year. I also have a goal of transferring to a university to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree.

What does this ACT scholarship mean to you?

I most likely wouldn’t have an education journey if it wasn’t for this scholarship opportunity. I would be someone without a clear path toward my goals. This scholarship offers me a chance at a better life.