“You can do anything you want to do in your life. It will be hard. It will be very hard. Some of you have barriers and struggles and things that are just not fair. Things that you should not have to go through. Things that you don’t deserve. But they are things that will make you stronger.
And they are things that you can take with you and things that can motivate you to help other people who are going through those same unfair things. There is no more powerful influencer on your college campus than you.”
Here at Mobilize.org, we had the pleasure of having Isa Adney address our participants at the Target 2020 Florida Summit. After a long day of constructive conversations and empowering discussion, students listened to Adney, author of Community College Success, share her story. She spoke to them as a fellow peer, someone who had gone through similar struggles and emerged successful and ready to share her strategies with others.
Her story begins as she was preparing for college. Growing up in a lower-middle class home, her brothers’ medical expenses made financial security a struggle for her parents. Yet her family wanted to give Isa the opportunity to be successful so they told her she could attend college wherever she liked. But after looking into what the school of her dreams actually cost, Isa realized that she couldn’t put her family into even more debt.
“I will never forget how those little numbers looked on that bill, they were huge to me”
Isa decided that Community College was the best option for her situation, despite her hopes and dreams. And as she sat in Advising for two hours, the weight of it all became too much.
“I remember breaking in a way that I never had before in my life and in a way that I never have since…I broke down crying. I couldn’t help myself because I didn’t know where my life was going to go.”
But eventually Isa began to adjust to the situation. Her adviser helped her come up with an educational plan, and a teacher who believed in her helped Isa join the Honors Program. He told her “Community College can take you anywhere you want to go… I see something in you and I think you can go farther than you think you can go”
Through the honors program, and through her involvement with Phi Theta Kappa, Isa began to network and create relationships that helped her succeed.
She met a fellow Phi Theta Kappa who had won the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, which payed for both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Through her mentorship, Isa successfully applied for and received that same scholarship.
“I stood up, and then I fell right back down on my knees, bawling my eyes out. Once again on the floor in community college crying in public. But this time it was for the exact opposite reason. Because I had more hope than I ever did in my life….For me, knowing i had 50,000 dollars to get a masters degree put me on my knees. Because no one in my family had even gotten a bachelors degree
It wasn’t just that money, it was that switch in perspective that I could actually do the things that I wanted to do.”
After graduating, Isa decided that she wanted to work in the Community College System. After attending private school and seeing first hand the advantages that wealthier students received, Isa decided that she wanted to spend time helping community college students acheive the success that she did.
“I realized that there was this common element with students who were successful and students who weren’t. And it seemed to me that students had really good peer relationships, students who had connections with professors, and students who had some sort of professional mentor in their life”
It was with that knowledge that Isa decided to write “Community College Success”. She wanted to share her insight on a wider level and help students discover the key to doing well.
“Find someone that is doing what you want to do and ask for advice.
Notice what people compliment you on. Notice what you feel most alive doing. And think how you can use that to impact change. Because that is where you’ll be most successful.”
As Isa finished speaking, it was readily visible how impacted the students were by her story. They got the opportunity to ask Isa questions about her experiences, seek advice, and even have her sign the free copy of Community College Success that they had received. It was clear that by hearing how a peer had turned a seemingly hopeless situation into an incredible journey, they felt inspired to do the same.
Check out the video below to hear from Isa Adney herself on the interactions she had with students throughout the summit:
And please be sure to check out Isa Adney’s blog recapping her experience with the summit on Fox News Latino! Also be sure to check out her speech in full here! Megan Emme is the New Media Coordinator at Mobilize.org and runs their blogging program, The Millennial Report. Megan is a Junior at San Francisco State University and also works as the SF Regional Coordinator for the Revolution Hunger Campaign. She hopes to pursue a career empowering young people to advocate for themselves as well as make a difference in their communities.
Megan Emme is the New Media Coordinator at Mobilize.org and runs their blogging program, The Millennial Report. Megan is a Junior at San Francisco State University and also works as the SF Regional Coordinator for the Revolution Hunger Campaign. She hopes to pursue a career empowering young people to advocate for themselves as well as make a difference in their communities.