Long road gives student new perspective

Airik Leon, Staff Reporter

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From her time as a Resident Assistant teaching international students about the ins-and-outs of Park, to navigating how to deal with life on her own in Morocco, Ayla Parham is always learning new things.

The Park University junior, who is a double major in secondary education and unified science and biology, said she has always been an excellent student in school. So good, she considered herself to have been the teacher’s pet through high school. Parham graduated 7th in her high school class at Clever, Mo., but said she ended her high school track fruitless in recognition.

“I never won anything in high school until the last semester before my graduation,” Parham said. “No one had thought about me. I felt like maybe I was a bad student.”

However, scholarships did come in but she didn’t qualify for ones that could take her to one of the “big” schools, such as the University of Missouri or Missouri State, Parham said.

Her seventh-place ranking coupled with an above average ACT score gave her an opportunity to come to Park University. Parham said she thinks Park saw something special in the community service work she had done for the American Cancer Society and offered her the McAfee Scholarship, which is a tuition-free award.

Stress is what came with her scholarship her freshman year. She said she was worried about the difficulty of her classes and receiving news of the imminent foreclosure of her family’s home.

“(I began to think) maybe I am not cut out for college and should go home,” she said.

Parham said her mother reassured her by telling her there was nothing she could do to help, so she stayed at Park.

“My freshman year was pretty depressing,” said Parham. “But, then Karie (Schaefer) asked me to apply for a student leadership position and she said (I) would be great”

Nudged towards student leadership, Parham got her first taste as a first-year experience mentor for transfer students.

Later, Parham became eager to travel. She went to Angela Peterson’s office, the director of study abroad program, and asked where the cheapest possible places to study were.

“I chose Morocco because I feel most students look to Europe as some ‘motherland’ and hold a candle to it,” said Parham, “I think to myself, ‘I am just white and my family has been living here for such a long time.’ I am glad I decided on Morocco because they have a mix of African and Arab traditions there and everyone is in love with Bob Marley. It’s pretty bomb.”

It wasn’t until she travelled that she learned how to truly be a leader through being an individual, Parham said. Her time spent in Morocco was spent making a conscience effort to not hang out with Americans.

“I had to learn how to do things on my own and not be afraid,” said Parham. “It seems simple but I saw people afraid to do things on their own.”

This has given Parham a new perspective about Park’s large international student base, she said. After being an international student herself, she has grown into a new title around campus she doesn’t quite know how to feel about: Big Mama.

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