As a little girl, Aliyah Joseph visited the University of Arkansas at Little Rock every year to watch her grandfather host a pre-Christmas basketball tournament in the Donaghey Student Center field house.
He ran the event for 41 years, and because of his involvement and love for the campus, UA Little Rock became a part the family and eventually became Joseph’s second home.
“My grandpa always talked about how much he loved the school, so when I came here, I thought about him,” Joseph said.
Joseph’s grandfather passed away in 2011, a year before she would officially become a Trojan.
A new beginning
In 2012, the North Little Rock native packed up her belongings and drove 15 minutes from home to start her journey as a first year college student. It didn’t take long for Joseph to find her place on campus, as she had already been chosen as a Chancellor’s Leadership Corps scholar and naturally had a desire to become involved with organizations that served others.
During her time at the university, Joseph served as the treasurer of the West Hall Council, a mentor for the African American Female Initiative, became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., started the L. O. V. E. Gospel Choir, and was nominated for Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She also completed numerous hours of community service, made the chancellor’s and dean’s lists, and worked as a tour guide in the Office of Admissions for two years.
Although Joseph kept herself busy with extracurricular activities, she was on course to graduate in May 2017, but decided in the 11th hour to change her major.
“I was lost and I felt like it was the end of the world,” Joseph said. “I was dreading having to do more undergraduate schooling, and I knew that I needed to graduate within the next year.”
With all but an ounce of hope lost, Joseph sought out the help of her academic advisor, Dechantria Wallace, who was able to help her find a field that she was passionate about and that made her happy.
On May 12, Joseph will graduate from UA Little Rock with a degree in health, human performance, and sports management from the College of Education and Health Professions.
“I chose this degree because I want to be an advocate for healthy living in my community and beyond,” Joseph said. “Health educators are very necessary and I can exercise my degree in different settings.”
Finding solace in family
Although she faced a minor setback, Joseph chose to see the challenge through. She wasn’t alone in her pursuit, as she often confided in God through prayer and listened to the instructions of her family who continuously motivated her and affirmed her belief that she could do whatever she put her mind to.
“My mom was there for me every moment and she was tough on me, but she set an expectation that helped me to get to this point,” she said. “My dad was always consistent in encouraging me because I’m only the third person on his side of the family to graduate from college, so he made it his business to push me to finish.”
Joseph also received endless support from her grandparents. Her grandmother did not go to college and her grandfather did, but both shared words of wisdom that drove Joseph to keep going.
In addition to the support from the adults in her life, Joseph’s desire to be a great example to her little sister prompted her to give all that she had in this chapter of her life.
“I wanted to give my sister something to look up to,” Joseph explained. “Going to college is a big deal for my family and I want my sister to carry that legacy. She is a freshman in high school now and even before this year, I talked to her about being anything she wants to be and furthering her education by going to college. I want her to be better than me so the least I can do is be a good example.”
Along with her family, there were a host of professors, staff, and faculty who helped Joseph to transition and find her way in hopes of providing her with an experience that she would always remember.
“During my time at UA Little Rock, I always had someone to turn to whenever I was struggling or having a moment of wanting to give up,” Joseph said. “I’m so thankful for all of you that made yourselves available when I needed you. I appreciate each of you for providing me with encouraging words and the strict accountability that I needed.”
After graduation, Joseph plans to attend graduate school to further her education.
“I have experienced some great times, as well as some very hard times at UA Little Rock, but they all contributed to my personal growth,” Joseph said. “Attending this school proved to me that you do not have to go far away from home to get a good education and graduate. I will miss being an undergraduate student here. I will always represent my alma mater, and I will always have the heart of a Trojan.”