Missouri State University - West Plains
Mariah Gregg

Mariah Gregg

Mariah Gregg broke new ground in fall 2010 when she began taking classes at Missouri State University-West Plains.

The Alton High School graduate was the first in her family to enroll in college.

Gregg, who received the First-Generation Award at this year’s Celebration of Leaders student awards ceremony, said that while no one in her family had pursued a higher education, “they were excited and supportive when I got into college.”

Since enrolling at Missouri State-West Plains, Gregg, the salutatorian of her high school graduating class, has taken advantage of all the opportunities available to her at the campus. She enrolled in the William & Virginia Darr Honors Program and joined the Student Government Association (SGA), Student Alumni Association and the Fine Arts club, serving as SGA chief of staff and president of the Fine Arts Club along the way.

She’s also received numerous scholarships to aid her education, including the campus’ Margaret W. Shaw Endowed Scholarship, the Doug Darr Community Leadership Restricted Current Scholarship and the Darr Scholar Award. She also received several community scholarships, as well as the Harps Grocery Store’s $1,000 scholarship. “They only award 10 for their entire 76-store chain,” Gregg pointed out.

In addition, following her graduation May 19 with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree with a Specialization in Honors, Gregg embarked on the first major trip of her life, a 10-day excursion to Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland as part of the honors study abroad program.

“Two years ago, such a trip wasn’t in reach for me,” she said. “But I have two jobs, which has helped me fund it and I’ve also been able to use some of the scholarship money I received for the trip.” She said she was really excited about the opportunity to experience cultures in other countries, adding, “It takes guts to go forward and try something new.”

Gregg plans to continue her education this fall, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a minor in linguistics. Her ultimate goal is to receive a master’s degree in political science so she can either teach or serve as a mediator on the international stage. “I’ve always had some sort of push academically,” she explained.

And, just as one would expect for a first-generation college student, Gregg’s experiences have led others in her family to consider college themselves. “My mom has gone back to school and I have a young cousin who’s very intelligent and is constantly asking me questions about college,” she said. “Knowing that I’ve worked so hard and have been able to go to college, it has encouraged a few people in my family to try it, too.”

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