Allyson Harrison selected as national Achieving the Dream Scholar

By Marketing and Communications Staff

Allyson Harrison
Allyson Harrison

Southwest Tennessee Community College student Allyson Harrison is one of eight community college students nationwide to be chosen as a 2024 DREAM Scholar by the Achieving the Dream (ATD) Network of community colleges.

Harrison, a nursing student and president of the Student Nursing Government Association, is the first Southwest student to be selected as an ATD DREAM Scholar. She also serves as a student representative of the Southwest Student Success Council.

ATD, a national organization committed to increasing the success of community college students, developed the DREAM Scholar program to foster leadership growth and critical thinking. Each scholar will receive a scholarship, tailored leadership development, and networking opportunities.

“I am beyond honored to be chosen for such an amazing opportunity! I am so excited about all the doors this scholarship will open for myself and what I can achieve in my community,” said Harrison. “I look forward to using what I will learn as a DREAM Scholar and at the Achieving the Dream Conference to make a positive impact on those around me. I am so thankful to be recognized, and to have found such an incredible support system through Southwest Tennessee Community College.”

Harrison said she struggled to succeed after high school and came close to giving up on her educational aspirations. She persevered and with the support she received at Southwest, passed her nursing program admissions test in the top 5% — while working three jobs. She is a staunch advocate for queer homeless youth in her community, and her dream is to provide low-cost, accessible mental and physical health care to those who are unemployed and underemployed.

Each year, students from more than 300 community colleges are nominated for the ATD DREAM Scholar program from ATD institutions. Harrison was nominated by Alma Rutledge, the dean of Students at Southwest, for her student engagement, student success, commitment to community and ability to face her challenges and keep moving forward.

“Only eight students are selected for this honor each year through a competitive process. Through this professional development opportunity, DREAM Scholars have an opportunity to engage with other students across the nation, share their story at the DREAM Conference, and interact with community leaders. When we think about how vital the student voice is in what we do as educators, we are able to understand how amazing this opportunity is not just for Allyson, but also for Southwest,” said Rutledge.

According to Rutledge, participating in the DREAM Scholar program will equip Harrison with the insight and skills needed to advocate for herself and to make a positive impact in her community.

“We have nominated students in years past, but Allyson is the first of our students to be selected as a DREAM Scholar,” said Rutledge. “It makes it a bit more special that this year ATD is celebrating its 20th anniversary.”

Dr. Tracy Hall, president at Southwest, congratulated Harrison on being selected for the ATD Dream Scholar program, noting that Harrison is an exemplary student at the college.

“Allyson exemplifies everything Southwest has set out to do for our students as an Achieving the Dream institution,” Hall said. “She proves barriers can be eliminated and success achieved when one is passionate about achieving a goal. I am very proud of her.”

Southwest joined the Achieving the Dream network in 2016 as one of only 12 institutions selected that year and in 2020 became an ATD Leader College of distinction. The honor recognizes ATD colleges that have lived their reform work over time and have seen significant improvements in student achievement across the institution.

Harrison will head to Orlando, Florida for the DREAM 2024 convening, Feb. 19-22, where she and her fellow DREAM Scholars will share their inspirational stories and offer recommendations of how to best support today’s community college students.

Harrison expects to graduate from the nursing program in fall 2024.  

Congratulations, Allyson!