College Admissions Assistance (CAA) proudly announced last week that Cassandra Belony will be
awarded a $1,500 scholarship to use toward her current college expenses. The scholarship was named the Judy Simpson Memorial Scholarship to honor a former CAA team member. After being in remission for many years and living life to the fullest extent, Judy ultimately lost her battle with lung cancer on Christmas day in 2011. Judy was one of CAA’s founding Regional Directors who had a great passion for helping students and families find success through higher education. Throughout her college planning career, she enrolled close to a thousand students, was a mentor to many, and was dedicated to her career as well as her team members. She is remembered by many at CAA as being a true and great friend who always had a positive outlook on the ups and downs of life.
Cassandra was chosen as the recipient because of her success with and dedication to the CAA program as well as her college and career plans. We are sure Judy would agree Cassandra is a very deserving student of this scholarship. Currently enrolled at the University of West Florida, Cassandra has plans to grow a successful career within the theater industry as an actress first but also believes she could do well at screenplay writing. However, she did not consider a “back-up” plan until speaking with the CAA Coaches.
“People would tell me I should choose a different career besides acting, but I didn’t know what else to do,” she told CAA. “One of the CAA coaches talked me through my other options and helped me to consider all aspects of theater.” With the help of CAA, Cassandra decided to follow her passion for acting while being mindful of the realities of the theater business. Presently, she is studying theater with two minors: one in creative writing and the other in advertising. She said that she believes advertising will help her with the business-side of theater and creative writing will help her venture into screenplay writing.
Even though Cassandra is excited to start her upcoming courses in theater, she has found that her favorite college class so far was a summer class she took, Intro to Literature. “I enjoyed the class because it was not just a read-and-write-an-essay class like those in high school,” she explained. “The class allowed me to write about my personal reflections and helped me become a better writer.”
The University of West Florida is providing more than just inspiring classes for Cassandra; it is providing her with encouragement to reach her goals. This year, she is part of a student support services program called TRiO. The federally funded program provides students with various services such as tutoring, developmental advising, career planning, and financial aid.
Cassandra said she views the program as a “CAA for college students.” Much like CAA, one of the TRiO program’s goals is to help students graduate in four years. Cassandra told CAA that she plans to become even more involved next year. “Early in the year, I got the Chickenpox and missed two weeks of school,” she told CAA. “I missed the assembly to sign-up for most organizations during that time. I plan to join Gospel Choir next year.” After getting back on her feet from her illness, Cassandra said she was determined to get back to her class-work quickly. She explained that she appreciated her professors not “babying” her and expecting her to put forth just as much effort for her grades as her classmates. “I appreciate the professors because they are more straight-forward than my high school teachers,” she said. “It makes me feel like an adult, and I know I have to work for it.”
Even though she is quite far from home, Cassandra says that Pensacola has a “down-home” atmosphere unlike the touristy South Florida area. But, adulthood and independence are two things Cassandra said she has enjoyed most about college life. She told CAA she tries to be responsible with her independence and holds onto her mother’s words. “My mother taught me that you are judged by who you hang out with, and I follow that lesson,” she said. Cassandra told CAA that she would highly recommend the program to those who have no idea what career fits them best as well as those who are not prepared for the SAT and ACT tests, explaining these were the two most helpful services for her. Asked what advice she would give to a current high school student, Cassandra said she would tell them “to come into college with a positive attitude.” She would also advise students to have goals and set academic priorities before starting their freshman year of college because “your social achievements will not help you graduate.”
CAA could not be more pleased for Cassandra and is proud to have been a part of her college planning success. Cassandra told CAA she is very happy in college and thanks the CAA Coaches for the guidance and advice they gave her along the way.