The Impact of a Grant

Shared by Dr. Helena Stevens, LSC, NCC, LPC - 10/18/2016

It was 20 degrees in the middle of March in downtown Cincinnati. I drove a rental car through the rolling green hills of Kentucky to reach my hotel downtown. When you step outside the cold air hits you hard in the face like dry sharp razor. The sky top buildings and shinning lights were the stars you saw in the sky. I gathered my peacoat tight around my chest, wrapped my face with my scarf, and shoveled my belongings inside. My room was on the 10th floor and gave me the view of shuffling cars zooming along late that night through a White Castle. For a young girl from the west coast, on her first adventure in the heartland, the wonder and fascination of the micro-facets of life were exhilarating. I had only been there two hours and could barely imagine what laid ahead of me.

Growing up with uneducated and addicted parents, the opportunities to see the world were limited. Education, I always believed, would be the key to my success and the launching pad to get out into the world. When I landed in Corpus Christi Texas to begin my PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision program I immediately heard of the Elite Graduate Program. This program boasted support for first generation students. This program, over the next two years of my studies, more than lived up to its advertisement. As a doctoral student, in order to maximize your success, it is critical to attend conferences, network, and engage in research work. The Elite Program paid for my very first conference, my very first plane ride to a place I had never been, and to my very first world experience that, I truly believe, is the cause of the launch of my career.

At my first conference I was able to meet with professionals in my field from all over the world. I was able to volunteer with the organization, network with divisions and chapters, and connect with the most brilliant minds in my field. I left that conference hungry for more, passionate for my field, and connected to most important movements in my field. In the first timers breakfast, being the outgoing person I am, I walked up to our organization president and said "I want to be involved." She didn't forget me after that conference and because of that moment I got involved. I would later work my way to chair of the ACA graduate student committee, human rights committee member, Minnesota Counseling Association President, and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin River Falls. Because of that conference my career has become what it is today. I now am able to attend many conferences and serve in many leadership positions. It is my goal to continue to inspire others and provide opportunities for the hard working students to have a chance for something great when they otherwise would not be able to.

If it weren't for grant funded programs, people, like myself, who come from underprivileged and disenfranchised walks of life would never be able to afford opportunities to further their careers. Unfortunately in our society institutional barriers exist that prohibit minorities from maximizing their potential. The Elite Program provided me the opportunity to break those barriers. In my position in academia I strive to do the same because of what was done for me. Colleges and universities need more grant opportunities to continue aiding students in achieving their dreams. If one grant to attend a conference can result in what happened to me then I truly believe even more great results can come from supportive funding for underprivileged, first generation college students.