Celebration highlights students’ achievements
May 1, 2019
Graduating from college is no easy task, especially when it seems the odds are stacked
against you. From finding ways to pay for classes and finding tutors, to overcoming
family struggles and health issues, every student at Ashland Community and Technical
College has their own story. At this year’s Student Success and Enrollment Services
celebration, five soon-to-be ACTC graduates shared their stories as guest speakers
at the banquet.
Richard Blevins, who will graduate next month with an Associate in Science degree, said his time at ACTC and being a Title III peer success coach has allowed him to come out of his shell and be more confident. But it wasn’t always easy.
Blevins said he didn’t do well in his math classes the first couple of semesters, so he went to a walk-in tutoring session. Through that session, he was connected with Student Support Services, which is a federally-funded TRiO program that offers free tutoring as well as other types of academic support to students who qualify for the program. He signed up for the services and passed his calculus class.
“I felt like, when I first started, that if I needed tutoring, that meant I had failed,” he said. “But after I started getting tutoring, I realized it’s not that I wasn’t intelligent, I just didn’t know how to read the language.”
His word of advice for any student who may be struggling: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Blevins is planning to transfer to the University of Kentucky to study mechanical engineering.
Erin Cantrell will graduate this spring with a degree in medical information technology, a degree she was determined to earn even after a car accident left her healing from a broken back for more than four months.
Cantrell said being a member of Student Support Services provided her with the encouragement she needed as a student at ACTC. After losing her father at age 4 and living with a mother struggling with alcohol abuse, Cantrell said many family members assumed she wouldn’t even make it through high school. She proved them wrong by getting a part-time job, getting good grades through high school and applying to ACTC following graduation. She entered the MIT program and was a work study for Janet Thompson, program coordinator. She also worked in the Welcome Center.
Last year, Cantrell and her boyfriend were in a car accident. Both were air-lifted to Cabell Huntington Hospital, where Cantrell found out she had a broken back.
“The first thing I said to my family was, ‘How am I going to finish school?’” she said. “I didn’t let the accident stop me. It made me more determined to achieve all my goals and do so on time.”
She said the staff at ACTC was supportive during her recovery and she thanked Thompson for working with her and allowing her to finish the program on time. She also said she and her mother have a better relationship now.
“I am very excited about my future and grateful for the people at ACTC who encouraged me,” Cantrell said. “Because ACTC has the support system in place for students like me, I will be the first of my mother’s kids to graduate from college.”
Cantrell plans to return to ACTC to earn an Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degree with the ultimate goal of transferring to Morehead State University to study university studies.
Kylee Hall will graduate with an Associate in Arts degree and plans to transfer to Morehead State to study social work. During her time at ACTC, she worked in the Technology Drive Campus Welcome Center.
Hall, who lost her mother to cancer when she was 16, said her mother was her rock and she wanted to continue her education to make her mother proud.
Her advice to new students, a common thread among the other speakers, was, “Advice don’t be afraid to ask for help. ACTC is a great place filled with great people who will help you as much as they can.”
James Lively will graduate with an associate degree in nursing, and is the class president of the program. A non-traditional student, Lively enrolled in ACTC at age 33 after losing his job in 2015.
After taking general education requirements and prerequisites for the nursing program, he applied for the program.
I stood by the mailbox and I waited,” Livley said. “I got a letter, and it led off with ‘Unfortunately…’ I wanted to give up and went so far as to try to withdraw from a class.”
Lively said he got support from his family and the staff at ACTC who told him to stay the course and try again. He got his admission letter and started the nursing program in the fall of 2017.
“It’s been hard, but it’s been rewarding,” he said.
Kailee Ross will graduate with an Associate in Science degree. She is the Student Government Association President and a student worker in the recruitment office.
She said her original college plans did not include coming to ACTC, but once she embraced it and got involved with campus activities and working on campus, she said she has had a lot of fun.
“I’ve met people and done things I thought I would never get to do,” Ross said. “Although (ACTC) was an experience I never thought I’d have, I’ve had a blast. ACTC has been great and I would recommend it to anyone.”
Also during the SSES Celebration, students were recognized for leadership and service to the college. Below is a list of students who were honored:
Student Support Services Awards
Rookie of the Year Award: Jamie Berent, Emily Borders, Ally Greene, Ryan Kelley, Alex Marshall, Josh Rhoden
Community Commitment Award: Ginna Batisse, James Lively, Teresa Stambaugh
Outstanding Student Award: Forrest Moore, Andrea Murphy, Jaclyn Young
Perseverance Award: Jonathan Blankenship, Amy Collins, Andrea Davis, Nick Fields, Kylee Hall, Cassandra Jarrell, Courtney Oney, Carli Romine
Leadership Award: Barb Harless, Somkiet Kiser, Tabitha Skaggs
TRIO Award: Brooklyn Adkins, Katelyn Hannah, Alexandria Sprinkle, Khin Thu
OSCAR Award: Becky Gilliam, Kailee Ross
Jenny Rickman Award: Valerie Biggs, Anthony Kaitis
Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Larry Ferguson
• Participation in SGA and Student Activities: Alex Marshall
• Library Student Worker: Alexandria Sprinkle
• Recruitment Student Worker: Alexis Carter
• Associate Degree Nursing: Allison Arvin, class of 2019 historian; Briana Fultz, chaplain; Jacob Sellers, secretary; James Lively, president; Joshua Fuller, vice president, Mornisa Wagner, historian; Stacy Napier, treasurer
• XAE: Becky Gilliam, president; Brittany Aberegg, secretary; Nick Fields, vice president
• Advising Student Worker: Bobbi Major
• Library: Breck Oppenheimer, reading group charter member; Brooke Maynard, student worker; Hannah Parsons, reading group charter member; Nick Fields reading group charter member
• Title III Peer Success Coach: Brooklyn Adkins, Cameron Taylor, Hannah Legg, Lacey Estep, Marty Myers, Richard Blevins
• Student Veterans: Charles Simpson, Hannah Blodgett, Jonathan Allen, Josh Harmon, Joshua Clark, Lacey Williams (veteran spouse), Whitney Gollihue
• Welcome Center: Erin Cantrell, TDC; Kylee Hall, TDC
• Admissions Student Worker: Eve Tackett
• Anatomy & Physiology Supplemental Instruction Leader: Holly Martin, Quentin Endicott, Skylar Roy
• Anatomy & Physiology Monitor and Tutor: Jennah Stanley
• Recruitment Student Worker; Kailee Ross
• LPN Student Worker: Shyann Morris
• Financial Aid Student Worker: Tessa West
• AmeriCorps Member: Zach Walter