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.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
There isn’t much about my upbringing that makes me particularly diverse. I was raised in a blended family and have parents who are different races, but that wasn’t a barrier for me in any way. I actually think having parents that came from different cultures and siblings who had different biological parents than I did made me a more open-minded person with a better understanding and appreciation for people’s differences. The challenges I had in my life were completely dependent upon my decisions. I got involved in an abusive relationship that ended up lasting for more than five years and completely took me off my track to success, but through that I have learned what I want for my life and where I don’t want to be.
What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?
My motivation for going to college and earning a degree was a better life for myself. I wanted personal growth and to gain the skills necessary to help others along their journey as well.
What are you currently studying? What degree do you hope to earn?
I am currently studying to become a registered nurse. My goal to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and earn a Master’s in Social Work after that.
Why did you select this area of study?
I decided to go after my BSN after getting my Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) degree. My only motivation in doing so was to get a higher paying job, but as I worked in different facilities and with all kinds of people, I saw the long-lasting impact a nurse can have on a patient and their families, which made me want to be a part of that team.
Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?
My family supported me, but my siblings inspired me the most in my college-going journey. I had the backbone support from my loved ones and could always lean on my siblings if I was confused on what to do next, or for someone to vent to in times of frustration. Both of my siblings have earned their degrees; one is a social worker and the other an environmental scientist, so seeing them achieve their goals made me believe I could do the same.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a college student?
The biggest challenge I have faced as a college student was, and still is, finances. There are so many things that need to be paid for, even with a scholarship (that I am beyond grateful to have). Not only do the costs keep rising but my ability to work is less in order for me to focus my energy on earning my degree.
What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?
The advice I would give to any college student is to learn how to manage your time and create a schedule you will stick with as soon as possible. It is so easy to fall behind and staying on a schedule helps me get everything done on time.
What goals have you set for yourself?
I have set short term goals for myself such as achieving the best grades I am capable of and saving money for the future. I also have long term goals of creating a place for survivors of domestic violence and offenders to receive therapy to help them better themselves and change the unhealthy cycle they have grown accustomed to. I hope to educate people about the cycle of abuse as well to hopefully stopping abuse before it starts.
Anything else you would like to share?
I would just like to say how thankful I am for this scholarship. Receiving this help has truly been life changing. I wouldn’t be able to execute my goals as well without this generous gift.
Ciara Ford is a sophomore at Kirkwood Community College, planning to graduate in spring 2024 with a BNA.