A day in the life- A’Lya Figueroa

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Business sophomore A’Lya Figeroa.

After walking across the stage and leaving 12 years of school behind, many students face one of the biggest choices they’ll ever make. That might be continuing on to higher education to fulfill or find their dream jobs, attending a trade school or becoming a freelancer of their passion since birth. And although going to college has been engraved in the minds of students, with the cost of tuition slowly increasing across American institutions, it can feel exhausting and strenuous to pile up thousands of dollars without the certainty of a career that will replenish the money lost. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in 2019 student loan debt rose by 20 billion, placing the U.S. total amount at 1.5 trillion and signaling that the student loan debt crisis is swelling. This is making it even more important for students to have the opportunity to apply for scholarships to help relieve the financial burden of college.

A’Lya Figueroa, business sophomore, attends college on a full-ride scholarship. The Priddy Foundation Scholars Program provides her scholarship because she is a first-generation student.

“This scholarship has tremendously impacted my life,” Figueroa said. “Being able to attend college without being oppressed by any financial obligations is a blessing, but it also is way more than money to me. It’s a bond. We have numerous occasions where we are able to network and build relationships outside of our normal friend groups to help better ourselves.”

Figueroa said she believes that being classified as a Priddy Scholar has not only opened up doors that will benefit her after graduation, but it has pushed her to step outside of her comfort zones.

“With this scholarship, I feel like I am much more involved than I would have been,” Figueroa said. “If not for this scholarship, I would have probably just gone to class and stayed in my room without trying to become a part of my university community. This scholarship program really pushes me to be the best version of myself and that is something money cannot buy.”

While attending Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma, Figueroa said she worked hard to be a well-rounded student. She graduated with a 4.19 GPA and was ranked sixth in her class. Alhough she attended a small school, she knew the grades she made would help her attain scholarships to help reduce the amount she had to pay, but she never expected a scholarship that would fund her entire college career.

“I felt like a weight was lifted off the shoulders of me and my parents,” said Figueroa. “I was grateful for the opportunity that was placed in my life, but I knew that I would have to work hard to maintain it.”

The Priddy Foundation Scholars Program covers everything from room and board to parking stickers and study abroad programs. The program pushes its students to really experience everything the campus has to offer.

Despite her scholarship pushing her to go above and beyond, Figueroa describes the extra pressure she feels to maintain good grades.

“Although the scholarship only requires students to maintain a 2.5 GPA, I still feel like there is pressure because this scholarship is so prestigious,” Figueroa said. “In college it is so hard [not] to fall behind and one wrong turn can have you looking at a 2.0 GPA, so I have to be careful in not letting myself get too comfortable or complacent.”

Figueroa also said she sometimes finds it hard to balance school work and the extra requirements her scholarship demands of her.

“We have weekly meetings once a week for about an hour. We also have a big dinner every first Friday of the month, and once a semester we eat with our donor,” said Figueroa. “It can get difficult, especially during finals or stressful times of the semester, but I have to focus on time management, because to meet my 80 required program hours I have to attend these meeting regardless of the school work I have. I can’t do anything to jeopardize my scholarship.”

In spite of the challenges she may face juggling between her requirements as a Priddy Scholar and a student, Figueroa said she continues to stay motivated because of her strong support system. Not only does she receive support from her family, but also from Cammie Dean, director of Priddy Scholars.

“Cammie Dean is constantly motivating me and the rest of us on the scholarship,” said Figueroa. “She is like our campus mom, and I know we are all so thankful to have her in our corner.”

All in all, Figueroa said she would do it all over again if she had to, and she believes that with or without the scholarship she would have attended MSU, because it has always felt like her home away from home.