Before becoming a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, Isa Adney could not see past community college. No one in her family had earned a bachelor’s degree; none of her grandparents completed school past the fourth grade. “I chose community college because it was all I could afford. I aspired to be a high school English teacher.”
Then in 2007, during her final year at Seminole Community College, Isa became a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Scholar." Becoming a JKCF Scholar was a huge turning point in my life,” she recalls. “I'll never forget the moment the president of the college surprised me with the announcement. I literally fell weak in the knees and broke down crying. Not only was the $30,000 each year to get a bachelor’s degree huge, but the possible $50,000 to get a master’s degree is what changed me. In my mind, "people like me" didn't get masters’ degrees.”
Isa transferred to Stetson University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in communications and then went on to attend the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she earned her master’s degree in education, specializing in human resources training and development. Now Isa is considering going back to school for her doctorate. “The scholarship changed everything for me when it came to my goals,” Isa explains. “Once I realized I could afford a master’s degree, I decided I wanted to work in community colleges to help decrease the opportunity gap and help more low-income students achieve a higher education.”
To help community college students succeed and follow their passions, Isa wrote a book, “Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and the Career of Your Dreams.” The book was published in March 2012 and is used in community colleges throughout the country. “After talking to so many [community college] students, I started seeing clear differences between the ones that were succeeding and the ones that weren't,” she said. “I also began to see the advice I was giving - advice up to that point simply based on my own experience - was having tremendous results. Students were finding majors they loved [and] career paths that excited them. I decided to put all of that advice in a book to help community college students understand how to leverage the entire experience and all the resources and people available in order to make the most of the community college opportunity.”
Isa currently works as an author, speaker, and consultant. She hosts the TCC22 college success TV show in Tallahassee called “The SKiNNY on College Success," maintains a blog about college life and success (firstjoboutofcollege.com), and recently launched an e-book for young professionals called How to Get a Job Without a Resume.
Isa was recently highlighted in GOOD Magazine's list of 100 People Pushing the World Forward for her efforts to help low-income high-achieving students navigate through college. “Becoming the first in my family to get a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree makes me feel tremendous gratitude and has instilled a burning fire to help others break those same barriers in their own families and communities,” she says. In the future, she hopes to continue working to help low-income and first-generation students attend college.