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Student received help to succeed, will pay it forward

May 04, 2010

Scholarship support and mentoring during her four years at ASU have made all the difference for Stacey Shomenta Esham, who is graduating with a degree in secondary education and a desire to pay it forward.

The odds were stacked against her as she grew up in Tucson, with a tumultuous family life and a mother who struggled with alcoholism and mental illness. Her father did his best to raise Stacey and her younger twin brothers, but finances were tight.

She was the first in her family to attend college when she enrolled at ASU, with a Parents Association scholarship and a Leadership Scholarship Program award. But she has made the most of her experience, racking up a 4.0 GPA and an impressive record of service.

Esham was a community assistant in a freshman residence hall and helped develop a college ministry in her church. She spent a whole summer working in the Sierra Service Project in south central Los Angeles, living in an old church and acting as counselor and cook for high school students from all over the country.

“I have never worked harder in my entire life than I did that summer, but it fueled my drive to be of service,” says Esham. “I learned how to truly be a leader. The way I see it, I have been beyond blessed to make it where I am today. Because I’ve been able to make it through, I want to pay it forward to the next generation.”

She also spent her spring breaks working in neighborhoods in New Orleans and Los Angeles.

In addition to the experiences she had while at ASU, it was the people who made a big difference for her, Esham says.

“Rachel Beech, who’s now a coordinator at the Polytechnic campus, has been my mentor, and she has guided me through everything from choosing the right classes, to communicating with difficult roommates, to dating. Without her love and advice, I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today.

“Dr. T.J. Davis has taught me more about writing, reading, analyzing, American history, the American legal system and myself than any other professor. He pushed me to become not only a better student, but a better human being. He taught me what it really means to work and to learn, and to be a historian.”

Esham, who got married last summer, plans to teach in Phoenix at a Title I school in the Teach For America program.