When she was 9 years old, Carmel Wright told her mother she wanted to be a princess, though not for the reasons you might assume.
She explained that a princess could learn anything she wanted thanks to the unlimited educational resources around her. As Wright grew her love of learning deepened, as did her passion to help others learn through tutoring, volunteering and researching.
Today, she’s in a great position and in good company to continue this work — Wright was recently appointed to the 2016-17 Pearson Student Advisory Board (PSAB).
The board is comprised of 15 students selected from both two- and four-year colleges to work with Pearson executives to make changes to products and services impacting student success. Five of this year’s board members are Phi Theta Kappa members, and applications are now being accepted for the 2017-18 PSAB.
“It is so rewarding to work together with a diverse and talented board of fellow students as we tackle the projects given to us,” Wright said. “I feel like my voice matters, and more importantly, the perspectives I gain by listening to others has become irreplaceable to me.”
Wright grew up in a low-income home in Oregon. Though she was enthusiastic about her education, she received little support from her parents.
After graduating from high school, she moved on her own to California, where she began working with inner-city children in her neighborhood and started a program called Bounce, aimed at helping the young girls avoid falling into sex trafficking.
At 20, as she began eyeing colleges, Wright lost use of her right leg. She endured constant pain and treatments and was bedridden for a nearly year before having a life-changing operation.
“This was one of those things that shapes your life but doesn’t define it,” she said.
Wright moved to Sacramento and enrolled at Sacramento City College. She received a 2015 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education, which supports students as they pursue both associate and bachelor’s degrees and pairs them with a mentor from Pearson. She transferred to UCLA as a Regents Scholar.
Her new goal is to become a stateswoman who “leads a reformation of the California education system.”
“I am greatly honored to be a part of the board as a non-traditional student and even more impacted by the genuine interest of leaders in this industry who seek out my thoughts on various projects,” Wright said. “While my perspective is certainly unique from other board members, I have felt so valued during my time serving on the board.”
Brendan Bennett, a member of the Phi Pi Chapter at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Ohio, was also named to the PSAB earlier this year. He was raised in a hard-working blue-collar family; but as he thought of his future, he focused on education and became the first in his family to attend college. He became active on campus, joining Phi Theta Kappa, Psi Beta and the Student Senate.
Bennett’s leadership skills were growing, and his PTK advisor and mentor Dr. Michelle Foust saw his potential. She encouraged him to apply for the PSAB.
“I really owe a lot of credit for who I am to the environment I’ve come out of at LCCC and to Dr. Foust,” he said.
Now he sits on a board with students representing Harvard, Rutgers and Georgetown, among others, researching projects for Pearson and strengthening his communication skills.
“It really humbled me to be selected,” Bennett said. “The students I work with have very impressive backgrounds, and I’ve gotten to take a back seat and observe and learn from them.
“The exposure to other passionate students like myself has really helped me develop as a leader.”
A partnership between Lorain County Community College and Cleveland State University means Bennett will complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May 2017. He’s applying to graduate programs now and expects the marketing and business skills he’s gaining on the PSAB to strengthen his application and come in handy when he begins his career.
These are added bonuses to a program that has already far exceeded his expectations — and he’s only about six months in.
“The quality of the people I’m working with is incredible,” he said. “I expected everyone to be extremely supportive, but level they’ve hit has been absolutely amazing.”
Applications to the 2017-18 Pearson Student Advisory Board are being accepted now through January 27, 2017. Apply today.