February 7, 2020
ASU-Beebe has become ‘home’ in so many ways for first generation college student April Picou. A sophomore, business major, Picou started her college education journey after being out of school for 28 years.
Before moving to Beebe from Chauvin, LA, Picou struggled in high school, graduating from South Terrebonne High School in 1991, with a 1.9 grade point average. “I didn’t do well in school as I didn’t feel that I fit in with other students, and wasn’t interested in getting involved,” said Picou. “My personal struggle was that I was raised by my grandparents most of my life due to drug addiction, then I became pregnant while still in school but I was determined to graduate which I did. I don’t mind telling my story now, as I feel it could help others in similar situations.”
Unfortunately, the struggle for Picou continued after high school. She experienced her own addiction, physical and mental abuse for years, and homelessness, while trying to find a way to support her two children. She briefly enrolled in a Florida course for medical billing and coding, graduating the coursework with a 4.0; however, the expense and difficulty of the course content kept her from taking the certification test. Picou also survived cancer and later a car wreck.
“Looking back, my faith in God and the love instilled in me from my caring grandparents pulled me through,” said Picou. “Determination and perseverance have been my biggest assets.”
Then, in 2016 Picou moved to Beebe with her husband. She began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Beebe Retirement Center, which is where she discovered her passion to help elderly people. “I had begun to think about college and taking some courses and I was encouraged by friends and people in my church to enroll at ASU-Beebe,” said Picou.
Picou enrolled in the spring 2018 semester. “At first, I was very quiet and too intimidated by the college environment to become active on campus. The TRIO program really helped me get out of my comfort zone,” said Picou. “They invited me to join the Student Advisory Board, which as secretary we renamed to TRIO Leadership Council (TLC). “I loved that the acronym also stood for Tender Loving Care, because that’s how it felt to me.” By joining TLC, Picou said it helped her get involved in attending student activities on campus.
Picou soon found herself helping with the campus food pantry, which led to becoming president of TLC and representative for the Student Government Association Senate. Through SGA, she participated in the Student Leadership Experience and worked on the Grievance and Appeals Committee, University of Central Arkansas Grant Writing Committee, First Generation College Student Committee, all while working as a tutor and front desk assistant in the Learning Center. Picou also served on the Career Connections Summit, which identifies technical and soft skills for career readiness. She also joined the Honors Society and received the most outstanding Non-Traditional Student Award last spring.
Picou’s favorite courses have been history and English. “I loved learning about major history events and people from the past. My English teacher, Sheila Chase, has helped me to improve my writing skills tremendously.”
“My favorite experiences have involved my love of hiking and traveling. This summer, the Student Leadership Experience hiked Sugarloaf Mountain behind the Heber Springs campus. It was great to bond with other student leaders,” said Picou. She also took advantage of the Vanguard Art Pass opportunities and getting to participate in a University of Central Arkansas transfer trip.
“My goal is to complete a business administration degree through a 2+2 program and work as a business consultant to improve nursing home quality and care,” said Picou.
Even though Picou has had to overcome barriers, including financial obstacles, she has been determined to obtain her college degree. She wants to make her grandparents proud, be a role model for her children, grandchildren, and other college students, and ultimately use her business degree to help improve healthcare for the elderly.
Picou was inspired by a college professor she met who began her college education in her mid 40s. “I want to be able to walk at graduation and receive my diploma,” said Picou. “Education has changed my life. People who knew me in the past would not recognize me now.”
Picou advised others to “Step out of your comfort zone, get involved, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, ask questions, be determined, persevere through all the hard stuff, and never give up on yourself. Do not let others tell you that you cannot do something. You can do anything you set your mind to. If you want something bad enough, go after it wholeheartedly but do it for the right reasons. Learn to forgive others and help others when you can.
Life as a Vanguard is a social media series produced by the ASUB Office of Marketing and Public Relations. These are ‘get to know’ articles of interest about students, faculty, and staff within the Vanguard campus community.