2021 Scott Wright Student Essay Contest Winner Allison C. Dugas

Alison Dugas

2021 SEC Winner
Allison C. Dugas

2016 SEC Winner Paloma Marinelarena

A Woman of Letters

Nobody believes that poor people like me will make it. I grew up on nothing more than my mother’s love. I tried the Army, but an injury forced me out. College? Yeah, I tried that, too – twice, but single motherhood changed my priorities. They say poverty is a cycle, and let me tell you: it is one exhausting ride. If I wanted to get off that bike, I had one choice – give college another try. So off to Pensacola State College I went. I can do it this time – at least, that is what I kept telling myself, but the daily struggle was real. Then, a letter came in the mail from the college. What I found inside welcomed me to a new beginning.

“It is my greatest pleasure to inform you that you have been accepted for admission to the Robinson Honors Program.” Some details followed and led to the signature of Molly “Amber” Carey, Program Coordinator and Associate Professor of Spanish. I could not believe it – honors? Me? For the first time in my academic life, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Somebody really believes that I can do this. Amber has that effect on people.

She champions the Robinson Honors program, overseeing the administration, curriculum, and student selection. Each semester she finds students who are both academically gifted and seeking to “make the most” of their college experience. They all receive personal letters like mine. It is one of the many ways she lifts others up.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Amber was already heavily involved in the campus community on top of her own family’s daily schedule. Just watching this amazing woman go through her busy week is good cardio. The pandemic and a category 2 hurricane did nothing to break her stride.

Amber went the extra mile to make sure that the hardships of Pensacola did not rain on her people. She used these “disasters” to push people towards personal greatness. Her example is a vivid life lesson – if you want to make a difference, get involved.

Hurricane Sally cut power and communications. Amber found ways to check on her students and colleagues and initiated supply drives. When the pandemic made everyone remote students, she digitized the entire Spanish curriculum and spent hours assisting those who struggled. No computer? No problem. Amber mailed and delivered assignments for those without internet access or transportation. The pandemic also left students alone and disconnected. Amber got creative with club events, providing a chance to reconnect and observe CDC safety rules. She exemplifies what one determined and caring soul can accomplish in this messed up and broken world.

Amber changed my life with a letter. It broke through my anxiety and doubt. She made me feel important, accomplished, and capable. I earned my associate’s degree and finally walked across that stage. I will have my bachelor’s in a year. I finally found the path to success because Amber cared enough to mark it with neon signs.