What The CAC Has Done For Me: What the CAC Has Allowed Me to Be

For a moment I would like to tell you a story about a girl’s journey from self-doubt to unshakeable confidence and how it is a testament to the transformative power of determination, resilience, and the willingness to embrace challenges head-on. As the girl embarked on her professional career, little did she know that every obstacle she faced would be a stepping stone towards self-discovery and empowerment.

The girl that I will be telling you about, started her career in a Daycare. At first, she had absolutely no idea what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, so she chose what she thought was the safest option. Although she loved her job and the children she worked with, she knew that this was not what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. However, she still did not know exactly what she wanted to do.

After many long conversations with her mother, she decided that she would obtain a bachelor's degree, in Psychology, from Appalachian State University. Although the girl went on to obtain her degree, she always wondered:  How would she know if counseling was really for her? Was she good enough? Would she even be accepted into a Master’s Program? Would she be able to handle difficult situations that her students would face? These thoughts flooded the girl's mind constantly, and doubts continued to creep into her mind whispering tales of inadequacy and fear of failure.

However, the girl refused to succumb to her own self-doubt. So after the girl graduated from Appalachian State, she did what many new graduates do and applied to as many jobs (that she qualified for) on LinkedIn, as she could. Still unsure of what was ahead, she trusted that God would guide her and get her exactly where she needed to be.

To the girl's surprise, not long after she submitted her application(s), she received a call. An organization had received her application and wanted an interview. Within the week, the girl was hired as a College Adviser, through the Appalachian College Advising Corps. 

The girl saw this job as an opportunity to learn, grow, and push herself beyond her comfort zone. However, she knew that her new job demanded adaptability, quick thinking, effective communication, writing skills, and more. While she was determined to master all of these skills, she knew there would be challenges that she would have to overcome.

One of the biggest challenges that the girl faced was her dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words. In other words, it took her twice as long to read, write, and understand what she was reading as it did those who did not struggle with this learning disorder. While she worked very hard in school to not show signs of her disorder, she knew that eventually she would have to face one of her biggest fears... public speaking. 

In school, the girl taught herself how to write well and spent countless hours on assignments to make sure that she did well. However, the thought of addressing a room full of colleagues or students sent shivers down her spine. Knowing that she would have to partake in presentations that involved reading out loud to large groups of people allowed all of her insecurities, with her dyslexia,  to overwhelm her.

But instead of avoiding such situations, she accepted when her Program Directors or Site Facilitator asked her to speak or present at meetings, presentations, or conferences. With each speech, the girl's confidence blossomed. She learned how to memorize her speeches so that she would not be reading off a sheet. She also learned how to engage her audience and deliver messages with clarity and conviction. What once seemed daunting became a platform for her to showcase her knowledge and passion for her job.

What started as speaking at AppCAC trainings and meetings turned into presenting at First in FAFSA webinars and being invited to speak on the myFutureNC, Statewide North Carolina Financial Aid Collaborative Task Force, to inform state leaders and college access partners promising practices and barriers students face when completing FAFSA. As time went on, the girl eventually found herself nominated to speak at one of the biggest events of the year, the 2023 College Advising Corps Summit. 

While this nomination scared her to death, she accepted the challenge and was selected as one of four advisers in the United States to be an EMCEE for this College Advising Corps Summit

This girl not only overcame her biggest challenge in life, her dyslexia, but many of her own personal insecurities. She stepped out of her comfort zone and succeeded. She did not quit, no matter what others said about her or how scared she was.   

She didn't let anything stop her — not self-doubt, not fear of failure, and not the challenges of her learning disorder. Instead, she viewed every obstacle as an opportunity to shine, to learn, and to become the best version of herself. She even found herself forming meaningful connections, exchanging ideas, and gaining valuable insights from seasoned professionals along the way.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, that girl is me. My name is Kenley Jackson, and I am proud to say that in my two years of being a College Adviser with the Appalachian College Advising Corps, I have grown more than I ever thought possible. I have overcome my insecurities and my self doubts. I have pushed myself, and I am proud of how far I have come. I am not only coming back to the College Advising Corps for a third year, but I have been accepted into East Carolina Universities Counselor Program to pursue a Masters in School Counseling. My hope is that one day I will be able to help others overcome their own challenges or insecurities that they might face. 

While my challenge may not seem like a lot to some, to me it was everything. If we let them, our insecurities will control our life. My journey has taught me that true confidence isn't about never feeling afraid or uncertain; it's about facing those fears, pushing past limitations, and believing in oneself despite adversity. My job, as a college adviser, is not just a means of earning a living but a catalyst for personal and professional growth, a journey of self-discovery, and a testament to the remarkable power of resilience and determination.

Thank you for reading my story!

Written by Kenley Jackson, Adviser at Alleghany High School




Kenley presents at 2023 College Advising Corps Summit

Kenley Jackson, Adviser at Alleghany High School
Published: May 7, 2024 1:17pm