My name is A’ysha Callahan and I am a senior, majoring in food science at Alabama A&M University.
My mother and father were supportive parents and I grew up in a loving home. I am the second youngest of five children and, while my siblings did not attend college, they did encourage me to attend.
In high school, I dealt with many struggles, self-doubt being the most prevalent. However, the TRIO Educational Talent Search program introduced me to the college life and ultimately a new way of life.
During my junior year of high school, I went on an HBCU Campus Tour throughout the states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. I began to feel a special connection to HBCUs.
In addition to the college tours, the TRIO program provided me an opportunity to meet my first mentor, Ms. Ashley Cullen. Ms. Cullen constantly encouraged me to research different schools and attend events that would help me to understand the college admissions process. Her encouragement also led me to becoming a member of the AKA ASCEND Program. The director of the Ascend Program, Dr. Sharon Sanders-Funnye, took me under her wing and she became my second mentor.
Ms. Cullen and Dr. Funnye are both alumnae of Alabama A&M University and encouraged me to apply here. Because of them, I felt like I was continuing a legacy and Alabama A&M University was a perfect match to my list of must haves! It was an HBCU, out-of-state and far away from my environment, offered my major, offered a substantial financial aid package, and most importantly, Alabama A&M gave me a chance!
With a new goal in mind, I began to excel in academics and in extracurricular activities.
After graduation, it was a struggle financially transitioning from Illinois to Alabama. I had difficulty finding transportation to Alabama and I still faced a $4000 deficit in funding—despite my financial aid package. I did not have all of the supplies needed for my dorm room or to attend class. My mentors blessed me with the remaining items needed.
Their support and encouragement helped me to hit the ground running once the semester started. By the end of my freshman year, I became a leader in my department by serving on the Executive Board of the Food Science Club. I received the Freshmen’s Presidential Award and was inducted into the Honors Program. With a feeling of accomplishment, I finished my freshman year with 4.0 GPA!
Despite my tremendous success academically, I didn’t have the best freshman year. Sadly, my father lost his battle with lupus in 2018. While he will not be able to attend my graduation, I will continue to push myself and earn my degree in his honor despite any obstacles I may still have to face.
Finances have continued to be an ongoing obstacle for me as I pursue my degree. However, I have been blessed to receive need-based scholarships funded by donors like you for the past two years! Without these scholarships I would not have been able to continue my degree program or secure internships.
I was able to apply for AND SECURE an internship with Land O Lakes Global Food Challenge in the summer of 2018. Additionally, I served as an Emerging Leader for three months in Arden Hills, MN during the summer of 2019! This internship afforded me an abundance of opportunities, including traveling to Africa to meet with Land O’ Lakes and affiliates International team and learn about food security, sustainability and agriculture. This past summer, I returned to Land O’ Lakes for another internship at the Purina Feed Mill in Richmond, Indiana. These internships not only helped me grow as a professional, but also assisted in my personal development.
I am scheduled to graduate May 2021. Though I have not received any job offers, I am confident in my value and sure that the best opportunity will present itself soon.
I am motivated to attain higher education so that I can be successful and make the people who see my potential proud. In the future, my education will be my ticket back into my community where I will create change. I plan to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in nutrition and use my education to encourage my surrounding community in prioritizing their health.