Belmont Students Learn About, Advocate For Better College Access Through Tennessee Thrive Fellowship

Five Belmont students are certainly thriving in the Tennessee Education Trust Thrive Fellowship. Belmont students make up half of the cohort for the 2022 fellowship, a year-long program for 10 college students from across Tennessee that equips fellows to advocate for change by connecting their personal experiences to concrete data, policies and practices related to college access.

Belmont students who were selected for the fellowship include sophomore biology and chemistry major Autumn Grimsley, sophomore data science major Miracle Awonuga, senior elementary education major Riquera Smith, junior biochemistry and molecular biology major Soziema Dauda and junior social work and photography major Vianney Muniz.

“Through the Thrive Fellowship, I am hoping to gain knowledge about how I as a student, and we, as a community, can help bridge the gap between people of color and education here in Tennessee,” said Grimsley. “I am also hoping to learn more about people who have walked different paths than I have by interacting with and listening to peers within the fellowship.”

Each fellow comes from a diverse background and brings their own unique skill set to the table. In order to be accepted into the fellowship, the students had to demonstrate a passion for educational policy and issues.

“The primary thing that attracted me to the fellowship was my passion for education. During the pandemic, I began researching urban education,” said Awonuga. “One of my questions was if the current approach to urban education was helpful in college and beyond. When I found the fellowship, I saw it as an opportunity to get one step closer to answering my initial question.”

As Thrive Fellows, students will spend the year (January – December 2022) building a network with peers across the state, deepening their understanding of education systems and pathways to postsecondary success and developing research skills in order to complete a Youth Participatory Action Research Project (YPAR) that will inform their advocacy on key issues related to college access. The skills learned through this program will help prepare students for their future endeavors.

“I hope to apply the skills I learn during this fellowship to the rest of my Belmont experience by using them as a guiding principle. Advocacy is crucial in data and technology,” said Awonuga. “By learning how to be an effective advocate, I will gain access to opportunities at Belmont that will prepare me for my future in educational technology.”

Learn more about the fellowship and the education trust here.