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Photo credit: D2Group

Ashley Michelle George is a bright college student majoring in social work at Winston-Salem State University. She plans to graduate in 2018 with her bachelor’s degree, then go on to pursue both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in social work. She recently received a Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) scholarship, powered by Food Lion and Coca-Cola, which she attributes to changing her life. Read George’s inspiring story below to find out how she feels the scholarship helped her to become “CIAA for life.”

Tell us why you’re CIAA for life. Share your most memorable CIAA experience(s).

In Bahia, Brazil, and Nairobi, Kenya, there are buildings that are isolated by the community. It’s a shattered, grotesque and secluded building that sits gently upon a lonesome hilltop. Steep steps separate the beginning of the crosswalk and the devastated building. Within this building, there are a dozen children who look as soft as linen and as innocent as a honeybee. The color of their skin is a mixture that stratifies them from being multiracial to African American. Their bodies are covered in a concoction of mud and chalk from the gravel. A handful of children run around on either the dirt floors of the playground or the hard marble that can no longer be seen due to the chalk covered children. Looking around there are only a few adults within the distance of my eyes. These adults are not their parents. These children are playing in a place that society and the government have placed them. This is due to the fact that they have nowhere else to go. Volunteers from different backgrounds came bearing school supplies and cleaning supplies, bubbles, jump ropes, coloring books with stickers, dolls, toy trucks, and other play items.

These children are orphans of the state and I was one of the volunteers.

The scholarship that made it possible was the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) that partnered with Food Lion and Coca-Cola. Once I received this scholarship, I invested it in myself. I became my own advocate and started my path towards social activism. This was my most memorable CIAA experience which was using the opportunity that the CIAA gave me. Not only did I make a decision to study abroad with the grant that was provided to me but it influenced me to become a social advocate and activist for my community. So, it is no surprise that my most meaningful accomplishment was getting to do community service on a global spectrum. An individual does not know the meaning of true dedication and hard work until it is time to commit to a goal. Helping as many students as possible is my lifelong goal. Few students my age take advantage of committing to traveling abroad. My experience with the CIAA helped me network and meet people that have assisted with capitalizing my future. The scholarship enabled me to be the first in my family to have a passport and do community service on a macro-level.

During both visits abroad, we went to an empowerment organization called Girl Power, and the VÓ Flor Orphanage. This was no easy task and it took months of intensive research for scholarships that would fully support my international dream. I was awarded 5,500 dollars however, I used the portion of that grant (3,000 dollars) to pay for both trips abroad. Furthermore, the rest of the money was used to buy myself a car. My car insured that I could work and use that money to save up for yet another study abroad opportunity.

Studying abroad and visiting the orphanage has impacted my decision to finally declare my major. I have chosen to study and obtain my degree in social work because I am passionate about helping people.

My dream is to work in the prison system, travel internationally, open up clinics, orphanages and aid the youth. I plan to obtain my master’s and then a Ph.D. in social work. In the midst of receiving a MSW in social work, I intend on joining the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps will help me get closer to my goals of international traveling. The CIAA helped me find my purpose, and that is why I am CIAA for life! I want to be the change agent for social work, justice, and activism.

Terrance Pratt

Brand Strategist and arts evangelist. Catch me on IG @tpratt111