Cedrea Chestnut, a senior from North Little Rock, will be graduating this fall with a bachelor's degree in elementary education K-6.
Chestnut, above, started off her college career majoring in psychology, but wasn't convinced it was the right path for her. Reflecting on her childhood, she realized that it had always been her dream to become a teacher.
"When I was little, I used to set up all my teddy bears like they were in a classroom," recalled Chestnut. "And I would stand up there and act like I was teaching them. When I remembered that, I knew that this was what I wanted to do."
After coming to this realization, Chestnut switched her major and started working to get the prerequisites for the education program out of the way. She emphasized the role that the TRIO Higher Education Access Program played in her success.
"I really beat myself up freshman year," said Chestnut. "I had to take out loans to pay for school, and I felt behind since I was only taking 10 hours. But I got all of the basics out of the way and got into the education program. The TRIO program was a huge help to me. I don't know where I'd be without them. Through that program, I was able to get tutoring and scholarships to put toward my tuition."
The support of her professors has also made a huge impact on Chestnut during her time at UA Little Rock.
"The professors have been like family to me," Chestnut said. "They don't just walk away if you aren't getting it. They never gave up on me. They gave me a reason to keep going. I'd like to shout out to (education professors) Dr. Bruce Smith and Dr. Leslie Sharp. They gave me tips and feedback, and were always there to answer any of my questions. They really guided me to become a better teacher. I'd also like to shout out to Stephanie Bryant, Judy Allen, and Cindy Jackson, for keeping me going. As well as my dad, for being a hard worker. I want to follow in his footsteps."
Chestnut chose to attend UA Little Rock because it offered her the affordability and closeness to home that she wanted, but she is leaving with so much more. She remarked on the great community she's experienced at UA Little Rock as something she will miss when she graduates, as well as the friends she's made through her involvement with the Epsilon Phi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
"I'm so grateful for my sisterhood," Chestnut said. "I've been able to develop special bonds with them, and they've always been here to push me when I've needed it."
After graduation, Chestnut plans to work as a substitute teacher at schools in the Little Rock School District, until next school year, when she can begin her career as a teacher.
"Always lean on the Lord to establish your plans," said Chestnut. "The Lord kept me going. I knew He was going to get me here."