A University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate student is one step closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming a mental health counselor thanks to a $2,500 scholarship.
Ariel Lackey, a master’s student in social work, received the Big Red Stores/Family Market scholarship for the 2019-20 year. The scholarship is awarded annually by the UA Little Rock Alumni Association to a full-time or part-time entering freshman, transfer, or continuing student who is an employee or immediate family member of an employee at Big Red Stores/Family Market.
Lackey worked as a cashier at the Big Red Stores/Family Market in Beebe between 2017 and 2019 during her undergraduate coursework.
“Working at Big Red was an opportunity to enrich my social skills,” Lackey said. “We had a lot of regular customers who liked to visit. It was a rewarding experience to really listen to them and create a meaningful connection. Ultimately, it reinforced my desire to be a mental health counselor.”
Lackey first learned about the scholarship from a poster at the Big Red store in Beebe. She was encouraged by her former employer to apply.
“Big Red is a family environment. Everyone is close,” Lackey said. “I loved working there. My boss, Amber Marshall, was really supportive of my education and made it easy for me to focus on school and work at the same time. Sometimes, between customers, she would even quiz me on study questions I’d written on flash cards.”
Lackey became even more interested in helping people when her son was diagnosed with autism. Her undergraduate courses in psychology grew her enthusiasm for deepening her knowledge.
“I fell in love with psychology and understanding human behavior,” Lackey said.
Lackey met with LaShonda Norfolk, education counselor for the College of Education and Health Professions, and explained her future career interests. Norfolk immediately set Lackey on track to pursue a master’s degree in social work.
“LaShonda was so welcoming,” Lackey said. “She listened to my dreams and I remember her saying, ‘I will get you there!’ I gained so much from her guidance and confidence in me. After that experience, I knew that the UA Little Rock School of Social Work was where I needed to be.”
Lackey participates in the social work program through UA Little Rock Online. She is on target to graduate in 2022.