Although her parents and other family members were very supportive of her goal to become an Ag-Ed teacher, they could provide very little assistance when it came time to go through the admission, financial aid and registration processes or help her with her homework.
Thanks to the federally-funded TRiO Student Support Services Program, Emily found the support she needed to be a successful college student. "Being a first generation college student, no one in my family had done this before, so it was like jumping off a cliff for me," she said. "They're 100 percent behind me, but it's new and it's scary and it's difficult. In high school, you have someone holding your hand, but you don't in college. That's where TRiO has stepped in. They've really been that support for me."
TRiO provides comprehensive academic support services to low income, first generation and disabled college students in an effort to increase their postsecondary educational success. The program is designed to help students transition to college course work, complete their degree requirements and transfer to four-year Universities. Students also are encouraged to explore career options and to develop leadership skills through the program as the plan for their futures.
"TRiO has been a real blessing, from advising to the support they give you along the way," Emily praised. "They've kept me in check, making sure I'm taking the right classes and that my financial aid is in order. When you have parents who haven't gone to college, you really rely on others to help you navigate these processes."
As a result of the TRiO program and her own hard work, Emily, who has remained active in the campus' Agriculture Club, Christian Campus House and FFA and works as a tutor at the TRiO office and in the University's Writing Lab, made the Dean's List her first semester and the Chancellor's list the past three semesters with a 4.0 grade point average. She's on track to graduate in May with an Associate of Arts in General Studies and an Associate of Applied Science in General Agriculture, and when she walks across the stage to receive her diploma, she will not owe a dime to the University. "I had A+ and other scholarships and funds from working in the Writing Lab and TRiO, and that has covered the cost of my education," she said.
Emily will transfer to the University of Missouri in Columbia this summer, where she already has been accepted into the Honors College. "I've been offered some pretty good scholarships and my financial aid has worked out so far," she said. "I'm just anxious to see what happens at orientation this summer." She plans to complete her bachelor's degree in agriculture education then look for a job in a rural setting, hopefully in the south-central Missouri area.
"I really want to teach," she said. "There are a lot of corporate opportunities out there, but I want to teach. I come from a family of blue-collar workers and I think that needs to be celebrated. I believe I can inspire others from a similar background to pursue a college education, too. My Ag teacher encouraged me to go to college and I'd like to be able to do that for others."
Emily said she is very pleased she chose to attend Missouri State-West Plains. "I love this campus. I could not imagine a more supportive environment. It's like a big family here. Everyone seems to know each other and take care of each other. Your professors know you and your circumstances and are very supportive of that.
"I would encourage anyone in any situation to consider Missouri State-West Plains, but especially those coming from a lifestyle similar to mine. It truly made the difference between success and failure for me."</p>