Aeriel Halstead, a junior double majoring in psychology and communication studies, was the featured student speaker at the recent UNLV Foundation Annual Dinner. The event highlights how donors have helped the university improve programs, reach into the Southern Nevada community, and enrich the lives of students. She received four merit-based scholarships, including the Mary V. and John P. Hughes Provost Scholarship for valedictorians from the state.
In this speech, Halstead, a Las Vegan who graduated at the top of her class from Del Sol High School, explained why she choose UNLV.
I was born in 1993, the same year my parents filed for bankruptcy. We learned a few things that year: 1) the stork has a stricter lay away policy than Walmart, and 2) being named after a princess does not guarantee a royal life. But what my parents could not provide financially, they made up for tenfold in wisdom and love.
I attended a Title I high school with the highest drop-out and pregnancy rates in the Valley. Even so, I learned that with loving parents, hard work, and wise decisions, I could do and be something special.
Graduating as valedictorian, I had many options for college, including a full-ride offer from a top university. But I also received an offer from UNLV’s Honors College. I chose UNLV. I chose UNLV because, under the surface, it offered everything I sought at renowned schools. I chose UNLV because I love this community. I chose UNLV because I could achieve here what I could achieve anywhere.
My experience as an honors student at UNLV rivals that of any top-ranked school. I plan to earn a Ph.D in industrial organizational psychology, and use it to help local nonprofit organizations.
But let me be clear: Without the investment from donors like you, students like me would not be here. And it’s not just the scholarships I received. It’s that I can walk in the Lied Library and feel inspired. I can attend a Black Mountain, Brookings or Barrick Lecture and be intellectually stretched. I can go to a Runnin' Rebels game and join a legacy. You built all of this — YOU are why I chose UNLV.
And it’s why I — and the thousands of UNLV students I speak for — share an inexpressible gratitude for your generosity.
But there is more to do. We could fill this room with amazing students who will miss out on all that UNLV promises if the scholarship well runs dry. We need them — those striving to be doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, business leaders. Your investment in us makes more of a difference than you realize — without it, many of us will never become what this community needs.
Since my Disney princess days, I have found that noble heritage has less to do with tiaras and tea parties, and far more to do with the choices you make. I am royally blessed to have received your support. Thank you for giving, thank you for caring, and thank you making UNLV a school worth choosing.
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