Elizabeth White, ACE Scholar
Every year, students who are within 30 credits of graduating can apply for the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship. The scholarship provides full-tuition until graduation. Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, enroll for a minimum of 6 credits, and demonstrate financial need. As part of their award requirements, ACE Scholars mentor newly-admitted undergraduate students and act as ambassadors for the school. To fulfill the duties of the scholarship each recipient writes an essay about their ACE experience. The Kiosk will publish these essays every Wednesday that classes are scheduled.
My educational journey has been equal parts tumultuous and rewarding. At the collegiate level, it began at the beginning of 2011. Up until that point, I had moved to New York from South Carolina the year before and had been struggling to understand my ultimate purpose in life. As a transplant in the city, there are so many points of stimulus at all times; opportunities are endless, and ironically, I felt stuck and directionless. I had moved here to pursue a modeling career and knew that such was temporary and that I would need a plan upon which to fall back after retirement. Henceforth, I began my education at Hunter with about three credits transferred from an online course the previous summer and a little motivation from a friend.
Before embarking on that semester, I had been feeling insecure about the fact that all of my friends at home had been in college for a couple of years while I had been pursuing this pipedream of a modeling career. Suddenly, I had three evening classes and one early political science class on Mondays and Thursdays with my castings and shoots sandwiched in between.
Having a set schedule in the midst of my chaotic one helped to ground and focused me. As I continued with my education over the years, I found the funds I had saved running low and needed to defer for a couple of years. During that time, I started working at bars in the evenings and was feeling discouraged as to how I would ever be able to attend school again when I needed to work. It was at that time that I was referred to CUNY SPS. It was a relief for me to find a way to be able to work as I do while attending school. I knew, however, that I still needed to find a way to be able to afford to finish my hard-earned education.
After scrounging for my first couple of semesters at CUNY SPS, I was collecting my mail last January when I received a card from school addressing the ACE Scholarship and its deadline to apply. I set it aside with mounting bills and decided to look more into it as its deadline was looming. The scholarship offered full tuition paid as of this past fall, with some stipulations intact. I wrote my essay and went to my modeling agency at the time for a recommendation letter. Shortly after submitting, I was invited to an interview where I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Sweeney and Dr. “Z” Lobley. I was given more information about the scholarship and learned that, should it be granted to me, I would receive the honor of mentoring new students in the program. Up until this point, I had spent the last several of my modeling career doing just that for young models entering the industry I went home later that day and prayed that I would be chosen to receive this prestigious reward. This summer, my prayer was answered via email.
I am not exaggerating when I say this scholarship was an answered prayer: it is the sole reason I will be a 2020 graduate. I have been so honored to have the financial aspect of my education eliminated as I have been able to focus so much more on my classes. As a mentor, it is your duty to help guide an individual toward becoming their best self through motivation and focus. It is essential to provide periodical guidelines without condescending the individual and letting them pave their way. It is important also to remember that a mentor can also learn from their mentee.
Since being given the role of a mentor, I have been motivated by my mentees. I loved meeting most of them at the beginning of the semester and hearing their personal reasons as to why they were pursuing their degrees. I have also become attached to their journey. They have all been incredibly self-motivated this semester and have carried me through just as much as I have done so for them.
As I close in on my last couple of semesters until graduation, my advice is to not ever beat yourself up for taking as much time as you need to succeed. It has been an almost decade long journey for me, and I feel that none of it was wasted as long as I reach my ultimate goal. Thanks to the ACE scholarship, that goal is attainable.