Keep Moving Forward: Dream Award Scholar Alexandra Joseph
By Megan Gunderson
Tragedy, abuse and homelessness were all too common during Alexandra Joseph’s childhood. But in the face of trauma, she has worked tirelessly to overcome the odds. “I made an effort to always be the best version of myself,” she said, “because I am not and will not be a product of my environment.”
Today, as a 2020 Scholarship America Dream Award Scholar, Alexandra is pursuing her dream of a career in criminal justice, so that she can help other children get out of abusive households, and be their voice through hardships and obstacles.
When Alexandra was just six months old, her mother died by suicide and her father and his family took her in. Throughout her childhood, she was deprived of basic rights – food, health care and sometimes education. They would abuse her mentally, emotionally and financially. “I knew nothing but survival that it became second nature for me.”
When she was a senior in high school, her father’s family kicked her out, leaving her to fend for herself. From there she went from one couch to another, staying with those closest to her. Through it all, she continued to attend school and never once thought about going back for help. Fortunately, she connected with a social worker who she credits with saving her life – and spurring an interest in a college education.
Finding a school to attend – and a way to pay for it – wasn’t easy, though. “Because I had no help from family I had to attend any university that would allow me to stay on campus all year round,” Alexandra said. She landed on Saint Leo University, a private Catholic college near Tampa — the most expensive of her options.
Pursuing Her Goals, Despite the Cost
Recognizing the opportunities that Saint Leo would provide, Alexandra threw herself into college life. A driven individual, she works two jobs to help pay for tuition and daily essentials, all while attending classes full-time. Looking for additional assistance to help her continue her education, she began her search for private scholarships and discovered the Scholarship America Dream Award.
Becoming a recipient of the Dream Award has helped her in ways she could never imagine. “From paying my tuition, I have been able to put that stress behind me and [keep my focus on my education].”
She found a passion for studying criminal justice, while looking back on the injustices of her own childhood. After seeing her father and family face no consequences for abusing her, Alexandra decided to help make sure no other child has to endure what she did. “I want to make a huge change as a politician, be an advocate for elders, children, adult and anyone who has been a victim of our society,” she said. “I hope to make a great change in everything I choose to be involved in, because I care so much about seeing people get the justice they deserve.”
This award allows Alexandra to continue her criminal justice education and work toward her goals of becoming a judge and pursuing public office. Once she completes her bachelor’s degree in 2022, Alexandra’s aspiration is to go to law school in New York.
“I have not had an easy life, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my story, because it has shaped who I am today. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said – if you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
No Dream is Unreachable
Continuing to persevere, in 2021, Alexandra will be airing her very own radio show at Saint Leo, called “The Dream Room.” Her goal with this show is to create a safe place where students can listen to someone of their age group talk about issues and events that impact their lives directly.
“I plan on getting different organizations to come on the show to discuss opportunities for students on campus and more.” A project that started as a dream is turning into a reality. And, as a radio host, she has advice to offer other students: in simple terms, to remind themselves that no dream is unreachable.
“The great things we get to experience today [are] because someone dared to dream and dreamed big enough to pay it forward.”