Achievement in education is a strong value young people receive at Methodist Children’s Home. Through scholarship opportunities available to MCH graduates to continue their education after high school, youth who previously might not have considered attending college find the support and motivation to create a bright future.
Leticia Alilionwu came to MCH when she was 12 years old and stayed until she graduated from high school. Many of her memorable experiences at MCH involved having her eyes opened to the world around her.
“I had experiences at MCH that were a lot of firsts for me, such as my first plane ride, my first trip to other Texas cities, my first trip to New Mexico, and my first summer camp experience,” she said.
After graduating from high school, Alilionwu took advantage of MCH scholarship opportunities and attended the University of Texas at Austin. After UT she found employment in the field of education. It was there that she realized she had a passion, instilled through her experience at MCH, to help young people succeed in education.
“I had been working in K-12 education for a few years and realized that the toughest transition for at-risk students is the transition from K-12 into higher education, if that is their path,” she said.
“There is a high level of support for high school and applying to schools, but there are other issues such as student matriculation that are important to me and important in the higher education arena. It’s important to me that more students of color, especially, not only go to college, but finish it.
“MCH provided a lot of exposure and awareness for me,” she explained. “It’s very likely that I wouldn’t have had a clear vision about my future before finding education.”
Currently pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration from Texas A&M University, Alilionwu will soon begin working in the office of the dean of student life in order to gain experience in higher education administration.
Throughout her studies, MCH has remained a constant support for Alilionwu. Angie Vaughn, transition services coordinator, manages Alilionwu’s MCH scholarship and assistance and meets with her periodically.
“Tish is 27 now and is a strong and motivated woman,” Vaughn said. “Still, it’s important that I check in with her to see how she’s doing. Reaching out through phone calls and face-to-face meetings is important to show her someone cares and is cheering for her to succeed. We want to maintain that ‘home’ connection with MCH.”
Alilionwu said the continued support is helpful.
“I’ve certainly done a lot of growing up and it’s always great to have someone who encourages you along in the seasons you experience,” she said. “It’s also great to know that you have someone who is advocating for you. Ms. Angie supports me and I know I can always trust she is moving forward with integrity and with a ‘students first’ mindset. The reality is that those types of relationships are few and far between.”
Alilionwu said she is considering two paths for her future in higher education.
“One consideration I have is to pursue a PhD in higher education administration to push my efforts toward retention in financial aid policy, admissions, enrollment, or academic affairs,” she said. “A second thought is that I would like to work in Washington, D.C., for an association or organization geared toward higher-education policy and development.”
As evidence of her aspirations, this summer Alilionwu has an internship in Washington with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).
Through her internship, Alilionwu has had the opportunity to meet government officials and influencers and attend important meetings, such as an assembly at the French Embassy related to international student mobility in France and hearing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta speak about initiatives related to higher education.
Alilionwu said her experience in the nation’s capital has “been wonderful and I think I’ve found the city that I want to live in at some point in my life.”
As Alilionwu works toward her educational goals, having the support of MCH in her corner “is encouraging,” she said. “It says that MCH thinks that my future goals are worth investing in and they trust that I’ll make a greater impact reaching far past myself.”