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.

photo of Briarri BryantWhat was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?

My motivation for going to school was to overcome the obstacle of my heritage. I did not want to be an uneducated African American. I prefer to be a well-respected scholar for my community and ancestors. Also, I love everything about learning and I challenge myself to achieve in everything.  

What are you currently studying? What degree will you earn?

Currently, I am studying forensic science and criminal justice. I will be obtaining my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts from Kirkwood Community College.

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

My immediate family was my support in my college-going journey. My mother has gone above and beyond to provide every tool I needed. She was my shoulder to lean on and my inspiration. My grandmother is determined that I will be great, so she never uses the words “if” and “maybe” when referring to my ability to overcome obstacles. My brother was my peer, cheering me on to the next level. He was also there to provide insight and constructive criticism for my work. Finally, my five-year-old daughter gives me strength and determination; I am her role model.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a first-generation college student?

The biggest challenge that I faced as a first-generation [college student] is not having the intimate assistance or resources to help me make the best decisions for school. Many people are attracted to the “universities” for various reasons, but personally I wish I began my journey at a community college rather than a university. I spent two to three years paying back loans on classes I could have attended in my hometown. My family couldn’t help me pay off my loans, which made me unable to attend school again until my debt was paid off. I became depressed because I wasn’t learning anything. So, I pushed myself to pay off my school loans and return to school no matter my age; because I have a goal and a family counting on me.

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

The advice I would like to say to first-generation students is that there are several resources available at Kirkwood Community College or any college you attend. Not everyone was born into a family of college graduates but we are breaking the cycle. You can do this. Never feel afraid to network with staff, counselors, and your peers. Scholarships are very beneficial, at least try to apply and be very honest.

What goals have you set for yourself?

The goals I have set for myself are to graduate this year with my associate degree and in the process of getting my degree I would like to promote my fashion designs to the world so that I can pay for future loans I will need for my bachelor’s degree.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I am a first-generation, non-traditional student. This experience was far from easy. I have a child and I have real life obstacles that could have steered me in the wrong direction. Overcoming those obstacles allowed me to mature and understand the true meaning of life, goals, and aspirations. To be a Black girl that survived the southside of Chicago, I am so honored and appreciative for ACT’s acknowledgement. I have lost so many friends at my age to senseless gun violence–I am so blessed to be alive. Thank you again, ACT!