News Editor, Joseph Salamon
On a campus largely comprised of students from the St. Louis metropolitan area, Aliyah Barrett stands out. A second-semester senior from Kansas City pursuing a degree in communication, Barrett decided to move across the state to continue her education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
She has been able to do so with assistance from Kauffman Scholars, Inc., a Kansas City-based scholarship program geared towards providing promising young students with sufficient resources to further their education and obtain college degrees. Barrett is one of just six Kauffman Scholars currently enrolled at UMSL and is on track to graduate this May after only three years of enrollment.
After taking international baccalaureate courses in high school and attending a junior college the summer before her freshman year at UMSL, Barrett came to campus with college credit and continued to excel at a rate that allows her to graduate a year early. Aside from coursework, though, Barrett also works to make a lasting impact on campus as a lead peer mentor for the College of Arts & Sciences. Looking back, she credits her current position to the First Year Experience course she took as a freshman.
“That’s how I actually got involved on campus, and the following semester I got interviewed to be a mentor in the class,” Barrett said. “That led to my job now as a lead peer mentor.”
While she has assumed a role as an educator while pursuing her own education, Barrett hasn’t lost sight of the other aspects of her life that keep her constantly inspired and motivated each day. After being on a strict track towards college as a Kauffman Scholar since middle school, she wants to take time to revisit extracurricular activities like art and poetry that she has pushed aside the past few years.
“One of my goals is to teach people that education isn’t the only outlet. You can always plug into it but you can also unplug and spread it all out to the people that are around you,” Barrett said. “That’s something I feel strongly about, because there are other things out there. And changing your mind is good.”
Barrett’s seemingly innate ability to make her voice heard and leave an impression on faculty and fellow students comes partly from her unique upbringing. Immersed in different cultures and languages, Barrett grew up around people who spoke Spanish, Tagalog (the official language of the Philippines), and English. She used this unique experience to develop her own communication skill set.
“There was never any specific expectation that I was supposed to be able to fit in all different rooms of people, but it was just understood,” Barrett said. “I knew that would be my strong suit – just talking. I wanted to be heard and express myself.”
Barrett is entertaining the idea of moving to Atlanta after graduation for graduate school at Georgia State University, but she remains aware that there are other things, like art and poetry, that are of interest to her.
“The beautiful thing about being a motivated individual is that you’re always inspired by something new every day,” Barrett said. “Now that it’s my last semester, my postgraduate goals are honestly just to be happy and have a little bit less structured of a lifestyle.”