More than a decade ago, as part of ACT’s 50th anniversary celebration, ACT established the ACT Scholars Program, as part of a pair of endowments to nurture the academic talent of graduate and community college students at the University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College. These two institutions share ACT’s passion for helping all students achieve their ambitions in college and their careers. 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.
We will feature ACT Scholar blogs regularly, to hear their stories and learn about their college-going journeys. Learn more about the ACT Scholar program.
What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?
My motivation for attending college and earning a degree is my family. I see how hard they all have to work and their limitations because they don’t have college degrees. They have always taught me to work hard for what you want and earning a college degree is mine.
What are you currently studying? What degree will you earn?
I am currently studying in the occupational therapy assistant program and I will earn an Associate of Applied Science degree.
Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?
My parents and my entire family, including my boyfriend of four years and his family, support me. They have supported me in my college journey whether it be helping me study or just letting me know they believe in me; it means a lot to me. If I had to choose one person, I would say my mom was definitely the one person who inspired me most because I remember how hard she worked as a single parent who also worked full time but struggled to make ends meet. She always made sure I had what I needed.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a first-generation college student?
The biggest challenge I faced as a first-generation college student was how to get started. Yes, they try to guide you as a senior in high school, but it’s very intimidating trying to get all of the needed paperwork done and contacting and finding those who can help. It was also very hard not being able to ask my parents questions because they didn’t have the answers for me either.
What advice would you give to first-generation college student today?
The advice I would give to first-generation college students is to believe in yourself and know your worth. Make sure to go to class and pay attention, stay after school for those open hours and connect with your advisors. They can help answer the questions your parents can’t and lead you to more information you may have missed out on. You also have to advocate for yourself and find a good support system, whether it be family or friends, because there will be times when you may want to quit. It will be hard, but you can be the first in your family and you will make a difference to your younger family members who are looking for that example to look up to.
What goals have you set for yourself?
My goals are to finish the occupational therapy assistant program by 2023. I will then take the state test to be certified and then find a job. I am ready for the journey ahead and hope I am able to better the lives of others with my degree.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to add how fortunate I am to receive this scholarship as I wasn’t sure how I would juggle school, work, and bills. This scholarship has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders, and I recommend all college students fill out as many scholarship applications as you can. They are here to help you achieve your goals– this one helped me more than I could imagine.
Savanna McAtee is a first-generation college student at Kirkwood Community College currently studying to become an occupational therapy assistant. She was born in Iowa City, Iowa then moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in eighth grade, where she still lives. She plans to graduate with her Associate of Applied Science degree by 2023 and take her boards to become certified.