Aislinn's Extraordinary Story

Conquering Poverty and an
Uncertain Future


“I knew, growing up, that some women went to college,” said Aislinn of Madison, Alabama. “When I dropped out of high school in the 9th grade to help support my parents and take care my aging grandparents, I put that thought aside in the ‘not for me’ box.”

Aislinn grew up, got married, and had a daughter. She knew she wanted to make a better life for her daughter. But Aislinn wasn’t content with making a better life for her own daughter. “Everyone is some mother’s precious child and we all want better for our children than the world we are given to work with.”

Taking the First Steps

Aislinn is living out her mantra and on track to receive her bachelor's degree in sociology
Aislinn is living out her mantra and on track to receive her bachelor's degree in sociology.

Aislinn says she knew that uneducated women from rural Alabama did not make the kind of big changes to make the world a more just and kind place. “To do what I needed for my daughter I had to make myself a somebody,” she said. “The only way to make yourself a somebody is to get an education.”

At that point, Aislinn had a GED and some goals, but no real plan. She filled out financial aid paperwork and enrolled in community college. After a few semesters, her grades were good enough to transfer to a local four-year university. It was there, at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, that she found sociology and women’s and gender studies and “fell in love.”

“I recognized my story in all the stories told at college. I see my coursework as an opportunity to change myself, but also to transform my community and my country to be more like the kind world I want everyone’s child to grow up in.”

Embracing the Journey

Aislinn’s journey has been far from easy. Last summer, her husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness. When she sat her daughter down to explain to her what this news would mean for their family, Aislinn told her if they were going to make it, they had to be their best selves.

To do what I needed for my daughter I had to make myself a somebody. The only way to make yourself a somebody is to get an education.

“I told her we have to be more -- we have to do better. I took that phrase from that day as a personal aphorism —- ‘We can do better!’ When my child has a bad day at school, I tell her ‘We can do better!’ When I make a mistake in my own life—when I’m impatient and discouraged—I shake myself off and say ‘Come on, we can do better!’ And when I see injustice and apathy in my community, I say ‘We can do better!’’’

A Better Future

"We can do better", as a guiding principle, is a mantra that keeps Aislinn strong and informs the projects and commitments she takes on. She is on track to graduate in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and plans to go on to graduate school. From there, her dream is to pursue a teaching and research position at a college or university, where she hopes to teach and mentor others to promote social equality and economic mobility.

When I see injustice and apathy in my community, I say ‘We can do better!"

Help Extraordinary Women Like Aislinn Live Their Dreams

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